Robert Tomes.

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

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now expected to confirm the act of his
subordinate in command. Arnold was
greatly vexed that he should be thus
balked of his purpose by this ungenerous
advantage taken by the enemy, and,
though he longed to have his revenge

upon "these savages and still more savage
British troops," could not but give heed
to the proposition, as Captain Forster de
clared positively, that the fate of the
American prisoners depended upon his
confirmation of Sherbourne s capitulation.

There was one condition which Arnold
rejected at once without hesitation. By
this it was insisted that the American
prisoners should not again take up arms,
and that they should pledge themselves
not to give any information, by word of
mouth, or writing, or by signs, which
might be prejudicial to his majesty s ser
vice. The other terms, having been mod
ified by Arnold and consented to by For
ster, were finally agreed to. By these it
was arranged that the Americans should
be released on parole, in exchange for
British prisoners of equal rank, and repa
ration made for all property which had
been destroyed by the continental troops.
It was moreover added, that four Ameri
can captains should be sent to Quebec,
and remain as hostages until the exchange
should be effected, while six days were
allowed to the British for the delivery of
the prisoners at St. Johns. Congress re
fused to ratify these terms, although
Washington expressed strongly the opin
ion that it was a military convention,
which, although extorted by a barbarous
threat, was sufficiently regular to be bind
ing. Arnold returned to Montreal, full
of fierce rage at being thwarted in his
revenge, and burned for a more favorable
occasion to give it vent.

General John Sullivan, it will be recol
lected, had arrived at the mouth of the
Sorel with reinforcements, and assumed




the command of the troops, immediately
after the death of Thomas. Sullivan was
a New-England man, having been born
at Berwick, Maine, in 1740. He was now
in the vigor of life, and although origin
ally a farmer, and subsequently a lawyer,
he had already, in addition to the usual
military training of his fellow-provincials,
acquired some military experience. After
retiring from the continental Congress,
of which he had been a member, he made
his first essay in warfare as a joint leader,
with Langdon, the speaker of the New
Hampshire Congress, of a small party of
continentals in an attack on Fort William
and Mary at Portsmouth, and succeeded
in carrying off all the cannon. On the
organization of the American army, in
1775, Sullivan was appointed one of the
eight brigadier-generals, and in 76, a
major-general. Having served under
Washington at the siege of Boston, he
now, so rapid was the experience of those
days, presented himself with almost the
claims of a military veteran.

Affairs in Canada seemed to have been
in the worst possible condition just pre
vious to the arrival of Sullivan, for the
commissioners sent there by Congress
give this doleful account : " You will have/
they say, writing from Montreal,
" a faint idea of our situation, if
you figure to yourself an army, broken
and disheartened, half of it under inocu
lation and other diseases, soldiers without
pay, without discipline, and altogether
reduced to live from hand to mouth, de
pending on the scanty and precarious
supplies of a few half-starved cattle, and
trifling quantities of flour, which have

hitherto been picked up in different parts
of the country." Sullivan s presence, ac
cording to his own letters, which gener
ally gave a more rose-colored view of
things than was justified by reality, pro
duced a most encouraging effect upon the
hitherto suffering and disheartened troops.

"It was," he writes, "really affecting
to see the banks of the Sorel lined with
men, women, and children, leaping and
clapping their hands for joy, to see me
arrive ; it gave no less joy to General
Thompson, who seemed to be wholly for
saken, and left to fight against an une
qual force or retreat before them." He
continued to write in the same strain, and
while every one else was down with de
spair, he was exalted with confident hope.
"I venture to assure you," he writes to
Washington, " and the Congress, that I
can, in a few days, reduce the army to
order, and with the assistance of a kind
Providence, put a new face to our affairs
here, which, a few days since, seemed al
most impossible." It was no wonder,
then, that with such an expression of san
guine self-confidence from Sullivan, that
Washington himself, in spite of the cool
calculations of the Congressional com
missioners, and the melancholy forebo
dings of the saturnine Schuyler, should
grow more hopeful.

" Before it [the letter from Sullivan just
quoted] came to hand," writes Washing
ton, " I almost dreaded to hear from Can
ada, as my advices seemed to promise
nothing favorable, but rather further mis
fortunes. But I now hope that our af
fairs, from the confused, distracted, and
almost forlorn state, in which you found



[PART n.

them., will emerge and assume an aspect of
order and success." In a postscript, how
ever, Washington apparently becomes
somewhat dubious of Sullivan s glowing
account of affairs, and puts him on his
guard against the dangers of deception.
" Knowing your great zeal," says Wash
ington, "for the cause of your country,
and your desire to render her every pos
sible service, I must caution you not to
put too much to the hazard in your ex
ertions to establish her rights, and to
receive with a proper degree of caution
the professions which the Canadians may
make. They have the character of an
ingenious, artful people, and very capable
of finesse and cunning. Therefore, my
advice is, that you put not too much in
their power; but seem to trust them,
rather than actually do it too far. I
would also have you keep all your posts
as you go, well secured, to guard against
any treacherous conduct."

Washington knew Sullivan very well,
and the next day after writing the post
script just quoted, he had occasion to give
an opinion of him, apropos to a private let
ter w T hich he had received, and from which
he inferred that Sullivan was aiming at
the command in Canada, "Whether he
wants it or not," Washington writes, " is
a matter to be considered ; and that it
may be considered with propriety,! think
it my duty to observe, as of my own
knowledge, that he is active, spirited, and
zealously attached to the cause. That he
does not want abilities, many members
of Congress can testify ; but he has his
wants, and he has his foibles. The latter
are manifested in his little tincture of

vanity, and in an over desire of being
popular, which now and then lead him
into embarrassments."

Sullivan was eager to realize his san
guine expectations, and accordingly he
sent out a force of eighteen hundred men
under General Thompson, to attack the
British at Three Rivers, while he
himself remained at the mouth of
the Sorel, engaged in constructing works
for the defence of that post. Thompson
in the meantime having embarked his
men in fifty boats, coasted along the south
side of that wide part of the St. Lawrence
called Lake St. Peter, until he reached
Nicolet, whence, waiting until night, he
floated down the river and passed to the
left bank, within a few miles of Three
Rivers. It was intended to have reached
this place at night, in order to take the
enemy by surprise. There had been,
however, an unexpected delay, so that
it was near daylight when the troops

In order to make up for the loss of
time, a forced march had to be made, and
the men were hurried on to a run ; and
when they had thus gone for several
miles, and were greatly fatigued, it was
discovered that the wrong road had been
taken through the ignorance or the de
ception of the Canadian guide. They
were obliged to turn back, and as they
hurriedly retraced their steps the day
began to break, and all hope of a night
attack was gone. They, however, suc
ceeded in finding the proper route, and
continued to move on briskly, until, by
a turn in the road, they came in sight
of the enemy s shipping lying off Three




Rivers. Thompson knew that it was use
less to attempt to conceal his approach,
and therefore ordering his drums to beat
And fifes to play, marched on until he
came within range of the men-of-war s
guns, when he turned off from the road
by the river, to another at a right angle
with it, and thus avoided exposure to
the fire of the enemy. The Americans
had, however, got so close to the ships,
that the orders to land, resounding
through the speaking-trumpets of the
deck-officers, were distinctly heard.

Thompson having been obliged to
leave the route by the river, prepared to
enter the town by the rear. When within
about two miles, there was found a great
morass, through which the men had to
flounder up to their waists. They, how
ever, succeeded in struggling through,
and reached some solid ground, where
Thompson was enabled to form his men.
The enemy were ready, with a large force
under General Fraser, to receive them,
and as soon as the Americans began to
advance, they were met by so severe a
fire that they were staggered at once and
thrown into confusion. Thompson tried
to rally his men, but in vain ; on they
fled, each man looking out for himself,
straggling back again through the mo
rass, and making his way as rapidly as
possible along the road by which he
had come. Hearing from the Canadians
they met that the enemy had sent a de-
achrnent with artillery to seize their
ooats and cut off their retreat, and
knowing that there was a large body
in hot pursuit of them, the straggling
fugitives were brought to a halt, but

entirely bewildered how to act. At
this moment, Colonel Maxwell, taking
advantage of the pause in the flight,
called together the officers about him,
and asked, " What shall we do ? Shall we
fight those in the front or in the rear ?
or shall we tamely submit ? or shall we
turn off into the woods, and let each man
shift for himself?"

The last question was the only one
they were prepared to answer, and with
an affirmative reply to it, the fugitives,
without more ado, scattered off down the
hill, and through the woods to the river.
As they fled, the enemy in their rear fired
at them, but fortunately without much
effect. The boats had been removed out
of harm s way, by those left in the care
of them, and thus a great number of the
Americans succeeded in escaping, by
straggling parties, after wandering dur
ing the night in the covert of the forest.
General Thompson and Colonel Irvine,
the second in command, several other
officers, and some two hundred of the
men, were left in the hands of the enemy,
while nearly thirty were killed. The
king s troops lost hardly a man. While
this complete rout of Thompson s force
was taking place under the hot cannon
ade of the British, Sullivan, at the mouth
of the Sorel was triumphing over an
imaginary victory, and writing a despatch
full of sanguine anticipations of Thomp
son s success. " He has proceeded," writes
the confident Sullivan, "in the manner
proposed, and made his attack at day
light, for at that time a very heavy can
nonading began, which continued with
some intervals to twelve o clock. It is



[PART n.

now near one p. M., the firing has ceased,
except some irregular firing with cannon,
at a considerable distance of time one
from the other. At eight o clock a very
heavy firing of small arms was heard even
here, at the distance of forty-five miles.
I am almost certain that victory has de
clared in our favor, as the irregular firing
of the cannon for such a length of time
after the small arms ceased, shows that
our men are in possession of the ground."

Sullivan s bright anticipations were
destined to be soon dispersed, by the ar
rival of the shattered remains of his force,
with a sad account of their misfortunes,
which supplied the general with a less
jubilant subject for his next despatch.
He triumphed no longer in imaginary
victories. He had the sad fact to com
municate of the total defeat and discour
agement of his officers and men. He
spoke, however, of his own manful spirit,
and declared his determination to hold
his ground as long as any person would
"stick by" him. He seemed, in fact, re
solved to keep the post at the mouth of
the Sorel, and went on strengthening its
fortifications. This, however, was but the
desperation of an unfortunate general,
struggling against inevitable fate. It was
clear to all that there was no alternative
but retreat, and retreat was determined
upon. The Americans had less than three
thousand men, discouraged by defeat, sur
rounded by a hostile people, and threat
ened by an overwhelming British force.
Flight afforded the only hope of escape
from total destruction.

Carleton, strengthened by several regi
ments from England under Burgoyne,

and by a body of mercenary troops from
Brunswick under Baron Reidesel, hao
now at his command nearly thirteen
thousand men. When Wooster was
driven from before Quebec, Carleton
moved on a large force by land under
General Fraser, and another by water
under General Nesbitt, to Three Rivers.
These two had just made a junction
when the Americans began their attack,
unconscious of the overwhelming num
bers prepared to receive it. The result
was necessarily fatal. Carleton now de
termined to pursue the advantage the
large numbers of his troops gave him ;
and accordingly, moving on his reinforce
ments as they arrived at Quebec, he sent
Burgoyne with a strong advance-column
to drive the Americans out of Canada.

Sullivan, now persuaded of the neces
sity of retreat, abandoned his
post, but not until the enemy
were at his heels ; for the fleet of trans
ports arrived, and Burgoyne took pos
session of the works at the mouth of the
Sorel, only a few hours after the rear of
the Americans had left. Sir Guy Carle-
ton had over-can tiously ordered Bur
goyne not to pursue his enemy farther
up the river than St. Johns. This saved
the Americans, who had got but little
start of their pursuers. Sullivan having
embarked his men, sailed off with them
up the river in advance, leaving Major
Fuller to follow with the baggage. The
wind proved favorable and good progress
was made for several hours, when the
breeze lulled, and the vessels were be
calmed. In the meantime the British
were gaining upon them, and had ad-

June 14.




vanced so near to Fuller that he sent to
Sullivan in advance, asking for orders
what to do, in the probable emergency of
being overtaken. The general promptly
sent a hundred batteaux to bring off the
men and baggage, and orders to burn the
large vessels. The major had hardly time
to accomplish this duty, before the enemy
could reach him. He succeeded, how

Arnold was determined to hold Mont
real until the last moment ; but hearing
of the disaster at Three Rivers, and aware
of the approach of the large force of the
enemy, he found that nothing was left
him but to retreat, and form a junction
with Sullivan. He accordingly crossed
from Montreal to Longueil on the main
land, and pushed forward to St. Johns,
" making a very prudent and judicious
retreat, with an enemy close at his heels,"
for Carleton,with a large detachment, was
striving to intercept him. While Arnold
was marching to St. Johns, the fleet with
Burgoyne s troops were sailing up the
river to the same place, and would have
arrived at the same moment, probably,
had not the wind failed. Joining Sulli
van at St. Johns, preparations were made
at once for embarking the troops. " To
this work," says Sparks, "Arnold applied
himself with his usual ability and vigil
ance, remaining behind till he had seen
every boat leave the shore but his own.
He then mounted his horse, attended by
Wilkinson, his aid-de-camp, and rode back
two miles, when he discovered the ene
my s advanced division in full march un

der General Burgoyne. They gazed at
it, or, in military phrase, reconnoitred it,
for a short time, and then hastened back
to St. Johns. A boat being in readiness
to receive them, the horses were stripped
and shot, the men were ordered on board,
and Arnold, refusing all assistance, pushed
off the boat with his own hand ; thus,
says Wilkinson, " indulging the vanity of
being the last man who embarked from
the shores of the enemy." The sun was
now down and darkness followed, but the
boat overtook the army in the night at
" Isle aux Noix."

The retreat was full of hardship and
danger, but yet it was considered credit
able to Sullivan. Though worked to the
utmost extent of endurance by the sever
ity of their labors, in the course of which
they had to drag their batteaux, heavily
laden with cannon and baggage, up the
rapids, and though threatened constantly
by the approach of an overwhelming force
in their rear, they succeeded in bringing
off all their boats and baggage, destroying
everything that might be of aid to the
enemy, and escaping with the loss only
of a single man. After a short delay at
the Isle aux Noix, Sullivan continued his
course along Lake Champlain, until he
reached Crown Point. Thus closed the
campaign of the northern army, which
left Canada, as John Adams expressed it,
" disgraced, defeated, discontented, dis
pirited, diseased, and undisciplined ; eat
en up with vermin, no clothes, beds, blan
kets, or medicines, and no victuals but
salt pork and flour."



[PART n.


General Ward at Boston. A Naval Success. " One Mugford." Capture of the Hope. Mngford gives the Enemy a
Broadside of Oaths and forces him to strike. Exultation on a Boston Fast-Day. Mugford has another Struggle with
the Enemy. Falls. Victory. General Lincoln s Plan for driving the British Cruisers away. Its Success. Arrival
of English Vessels in the Harbor of Boston. Obstinate Resistance. Capture. Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell taken
Prisoner. Generals Ward and Frye Resign. Gates promoted to a Major-Generalship. His Life, Character, and Per
sonal Appearance. His Letter to Lee. The " Traveller s Rest." Gates appointed to the Command of the Northern
Army. Counter-claims of Schuyler. The Question between them settled in Favor of Schuyler. Gates and Schuyler
in Harmony. Resolution to abandon Crown Point. Opposed by the Subordinate Officers. Extraordinary Proceedings.
Washington rebukes the Conduct of the Officers but favors their Views. The Enemy greatly reinforced. Washing
ton called to Philadelphia by Congress. General Putnam in Command at New York. Fortifications in New York.
General Greene on Long Island. Tryon s Plan for seizing Washington. A Traitor discovered among Washington s
Guard. The Traitor hung. Concourse of Spectators.


April 1.

WHEN Washington set out for
New York, he left five regiments
under General Ward to complete the
works at Boston, and provide, by new
fortifications, against the return
of Howe, which seemed greatly
to have been feared by the New-Eng-
landers. A few British vessels-of-war still
lingered in Nantasket roads, much to the
annoyance of the Bostonians, who were
bent upon driving them away at the ear
liest moment. Nothing, however, was
done for two months. In the meantime,
there was a naval success in the very
sight of the English ships which served
to encourage the patriots of Boston to
further effort.

One Mugford, as Gordon calls him, who
was a trading skipper, applied for the
command of the Franklin, a continental
cruiser then unemployed. His request
being granted, Mugford made all haste,
got possession of the vessel, put on board
a supply of powder and ball, shipped a
crew of twenty men, and hauled off into

the bay. Ward, in the meantime, had
been beset bv some of his religious New

*/ O

England friends, who gave him such a
bad account of the morals of Mugford.
that he sent off an express to withdraw
his orders. It was, however, too late, the
enterprising skipper had sailed, and al
ready, before he had got well out of the
harbor, pounced upon a prize. This was
the ship Hope, last from Cork, a vessel
of two hundred and seventy tons, four
guns and seventeen men, and laden with
fifteen hundred barrels of gunpowder,
and a large supply of arms, implements,
and other necessaries, intended for Howe s
army supposed to be still at Boston. As
soon as Mugford got a sight of her, he
ran his little schooner alongside and or
dered her to strike, which she did at once
without resistance, although her captain,
seeing that the British men-of-war were
so near that they would be able to come
shortly to his aid, ordered his men to cut
the top-sail, halliards, and ties. Mugford
heard the order, and knew that if it was




executed he would certainly lose his prize,
for it would give time to the British men-
of-war to send their boats to the relief of
the Hope, before she could be managea
ble. Mugford s impiety, which had near
ly lost him his command, now appeared
to serve him a good purpose, for he
opened, says Gordon, upon the Hope s
captain with vollies of oaths and execra
tions; and in the most horrid manner
threatened him and every one on board
with immediate death, if the order was
executed, upon which the captain was so
terrified as to desist.

It was fast-day in Boston, and its good
people were just returning from church,
but, notwithstanding the seriousness be
coming such a religious occasion, they
could not contain their manifestations of
delight as Mugford came into the harbor
with his prize. Our skipper, encouraged
by the success of his first attempt, soon
started out for another cruise with the

Franklin and the Lady Wash-
May 19, .

ington, but in going down the

bay the former got aground, and the
two dropped their anchors. While thus
anchored, they w r ere observed by the
British admiral who sent off at midnight
thirteen boats to attack them. The men
on both sides struggled manfully, and
Mugford succeeded in sinking two of the
boats. While foremost in the fight, how r -
ever, he was mortally wounded, but con
tinued to cheer on his men, shouting
out with his last breath, as he fell, " Do
not give up the ship you will beat
them off." And the men, without the
loss of a single life but that of their gal
lant commander, did beat the enemy off!

The Bostonians, exceed inglv anxious

o /

as they were to get rid of the British
war-vessels, which, numbering some ten
sail in all, presented a threatening aspect,
readily concurred in General Lincoln s
plans for driving them away. Every
thing being in readiness, the cit-

JllI16 13

izens of Boston were made aware
by beat of drum that the expedition was
to set out. One detachment of soldiers,
amounting to nearly six hundred men,
was accordingly embarked and sent to
Fetlock s island and hill, another detach
ment took post on Morn island, Hoik s
neck, and Point Olderton, while a third
with artillery sailed for Long island.
The troops did not arrive at their several
places of destination until near morning,
but were active and alert for action. The
cannon were soon planted, and a single
shot fired as an announcement to the
enemy of their intention. The commo
dore immediately hoisted a signal for the
fleet to get under way, but in the mean
time returned the Americans fire, and
did not succeed in getting under sail un
til a shot from Long island had damaged,
somewhat, his upper rigging. Thus, on
the very anniversary of the day on which,
two years before, the British government
had prohibited the sailing of any vessel
from Boston, w T as its harbor made free.

No sooner had the British admiral gone
than several English vessels arrived off
the harbor of Boston, and as they sup
posed Howe still in possession, they came
in without suspicion, and were thus cap
tured. Among these were the George
and Anabella, transports, which arrived
after a passage of seven weeks from Scot-



land, in the course of which they had
no opportunity of speaking a single ves
sel which could inform them of the evac
uation of Boston. When off the coast,
they were attacked by four privateers,
with whom they fought until evening,
when the latter bore away and the trans
ports sought protection, as they supposed,

Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 36 of 126)