Robert Tomes.

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

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by sailing for the harbor of Boston. They
stood in and were passing up Nantasket
roads, when an American battery opened
upon them, and gave them the first proof
that they had got among enemies instead
of friends, as they had anticipated. The
wind had died away, and the tide being
still on the flood, there was no chance
for them to get out again. The priva
teers, which had had a brush with them
outside, now came up and prepared to
renew the fight, the transports being
hailed to strike the British flag. The
sailors were ready to yield at once, but
the lieutenant-colonel in command of the
troops on board persisted in resistance,
and was readily obeyed by his soldiers.
The fight now began, and was continued
for an hour and a half, when all their
ammunition being expended, the British
vessels surrendered, after losing one offi
cer, and some twenty-five others killed
or wounded. The troops which were
captured amounted to over three hundred
men, and with them was taken also as a
prisoner Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell, a
man of rank and an officer of distinction.
Major-General Ward and Brigadier-
General Frye had sent in their resigna
tions, which were accepted by Congress
on the twenty-third of April, but they
continued to serve until the operations


at Boston we have just narrated were
brought to a close, when they were re
lieved by new appointments. Through
the New England influence, which watch
ed with great jealousy the advancement
of the military leaders who belonged to
the middle and southern provinces, Con
gress now made another promotion which
caused no little trouble in New York.
Gates, having been sent by Washington
to Philadelphia to confer with Congress
in regard to the disastrous state of affairs
in Canada, succeeded in obtaining pro
motion to a major-generalship and the

command of the northern army

, ,, . a June 18,

principally through the influence

of the New-Englanders, with whom he
had greatly ingratiated himself, during
his service before Boston.

Horatio Gates was born in England.
"He was," says Horace Walpole, "the
son of a housekeeper of the second duke
of Leeds, who marrying a young husband
had this son by him. That duke of Leeds
had been saved of a Jacobite plot by my
father, Sir Robert Walpole, and the duke
was very grateful and took notice of me
when quite a boy. My mother s woman
was intimate with that housekeeper, and
thence I was God-father to her son, though
I believe not then ten years old myself.
This God-son, Horatio Gates, was pro
tected by General Cornwallis when gov
ernor of Halifax, but being afterward
disappointed of preferment in the army,
he joined the Americans." He first came
to America as an officer in an expedition
against the French in Nova Scotia. On
his return to London, he was consulted
by the British ministry in regard to the




proposed campaign under Braddock, but
modestly pleading his youth, declined to
give any advice. He, however, served
in that famous expedition which resulted
so fatally, and showed himself a brave
and efficient officer. It was then that he
became acquainted with Washington,
and formed a warm friendship for him.
Through this alliance he became familiar
with colonial life in Virginia, and so
strongly attached to the country, that
he determined to settle there. This res
olution was strengthened by his mar
riage to an American woman. Accord
ingly, selling out his commission in the
British army, he bought a plantation in
Virginia. Here he retired within his
"Traveller s Rest," as he fondly called
his estate, apparently resolving no longer
to mingle in the busy world without.

To General Charles Lee, who was an
old comrade, and whom he desired to
become his neighbor and participator
with him in the delights of his rural re
treat, he w r rites :

" I know not how you find it ; but the
older I grow, I become less and less in
clined to new acquaintance. Selfishness
and sycophancy possess so generally the
minds of men, that I think the many are
best avoided, and the few only, who are
liberal and sincere, to be sought for and
caressed. I therefore stick steadily to
the cultivation of my farm, am intimate
with few, read when I have time, and
content myself with such domestic com
forts as my circumstances and fortune
afford me. I wish, therefore, most anx
iously, you would come to my retreat,
and there let us philosophize on the

vices and virtues of this busy world, the
follies and the vanities of the great vul
gar and the small.

" Laugh when we please, be candid when we can,
And justify the ways of God to man.

" Mrs. Gates is earnest in desiring to
see you under her roof, where a good bed
is provided for you, two or three slaves to
supply all your wants, and space enough
about us for you to exercise away all
your spleen and gloomy moods, when
soever they distress you. In my neigh
borhood there is this moment as fine a
farm-mill and tract of land to be sold as
any in America, and provided it is con
venient to you to pay down half the
price, I am convinced you may have it
a very great bargain. It is altogether
two thousand four hundred acres, at
thirty shillings sterling an acre. I am
satisfied you might have it so. By pay
ing dow r n about one thousand eight hun
dred pounds sterling, you may be put in
possession of an estate that ten years
hence will be worth seven thousand
pounds sterling ; and I take it for grant
ed that you may have the payment of
the rest of the purchase-money at easy
installments, and that, too, without in
terest ; so, by laying out a thousand
pounds sterling more in stocking and
improvements, your produce will yield
you a fine living, and wherewithal to pay
your annual installment bargained for in
the purchase."

Lee was tempted by the supposed at
tractions of rural life, and, in common
with Gates and Washington, retired to
cultivate his own acres, but was soon



[PART 11

called to exchange the ploughshare for
the sword ; and not reluctantly, we would
believe, apart from his devotion to a
cause which would have prompted him
to make every sacrifice of personal ease
and comfort. All three were soldiers by
nature, and would not have been long
content with harvests of corn and tobacco,
while there were laurels to reap on the
field of battle. When the troubles with
the mother-country began to agitate the
provinces, Lee, Gates, and Washington
were often together, and warming with
indignation, as they talked over the op
pressive acts of English tyranny, began
already to think of taking down their
hanging swords, and girding them on
for the coming campaign. " I am ready
to resign my life to preserve the liberty
of the western world," says Gates at the
close of the very letter just quoted, in
which he philosophizes on the charms of
the retirement of his " Traveller s Rest."

Together with Lee, he accompanied
Washington to Cambridge, to whose in
fluence he was chiefly indebted for his
appointment as adjutant-general. Wash
ington was so conscious of the military
deficiencies of the militia leaders, that he
was greatly anxious to secure the soldier
ly attainments of his friends Lee and
Gates, whom he knew to be accomplished
officers. In the beginning of the struggle
they were almost indispensable. Time
revealed, and experience perfected the
military talents of some American of
ficers upon whose skill Washington could
equally trust, and in whose disinterested
patriotism he had more faith.

Gates was now at the height of popu

larity. He was personally always a favor
ite from his courteous manners and kindli
ness of heart; but he was misled by vanity
to an undue appreciation of his capacity.
He was not a man of brilliant qualities ;
and though his ambition prompted him
to aspire to the loftiest military position,
he was not possessed of the genius of a
great commander.

At the beginning of the Revolutionary
war, Gates was between fifty and sixty
years old ; with his scant gray hair and
<: spectacles on nose," he looked fully his
age. He had a brisk, good-natured manner,
and was of a cheerful and social humor.

Being appointed to the command in
Canada, Gates proceeded to the North,
but found on his arrival in Albany that
there was no longer, in consequence of
the retreat to Crown Point we have al
ready described, any force in Canada to
command. Gates would seem, therefore,
to have been very much in the position
of Sancho Panza, in his imaginary Bara-
traria, a governor without a government.
He, how r ever, was not disposed to rest con
tented w r ith this impersonal condition,
and laid claim to the command of the
northern army wherever it might be. In
this he seems to have been instigated
not only by his own ambitious longings,
but by the officious provocatives of his
zealous New England friends. " I find,"
writes Joseph Trumbull to Gates, " you
are in a cursed situation, your authority
at an end, and commanded by a person
who will be willing to have you knocked
in the head, as General Montgomery was,
if he can have the money-chest in his




Schuyler resisted Gates s claims ; and
as they could not agree upon the matter
between themselves, they referred it to
Congress, while in the meantime they
resolved to act as harmoniously as pos
sible with each other, until an authorita
tive decision should be received. Gen
eral Sullivan, too, thought himself entitled
to grumble at the appointment of Gates,
who certainly superseded him in rank,
however Schuyler s position might be
affected. Sullivan accordingly obtained
leave of absence from Washington, and
made his way to Philadelphia, where he
laid his grievances and his resignation
before Congress, but being soothed by
compliments upon the judiciousness of
his late retreat from Canada, was induced
to recall his resignation and return to his

The question between Gates and Schuy
ler was soon settled by the decision of
Congress in favor of the pretensions of
the latter. Washington had been much
harassed by these bickerings among his
officers, whose example had been very
extensively followed even by the soldiers,
who were in a constant state of irritabil
ity from sectional feeling. He incloses a
copy of the Congressional decision to
Schuyler, and takes occasion to say, in
regard to his dispute with Gates : "I hope
that harmony and a good agreement will
subsist between you, as the most likely
means of advancing the interests of the
cause which you both wish to promote."
A few days subsequently, in another let
ter, he writes : " I am extremely sorry to
have such unfavorable accounts of the
condition of the army. Sickness of itself

July 6

is sufficiently bad ; but when discord and
disorder are added, greater misfortunes
can not befall it, except that of a defeat.
I must entreat your attention to these
matters, and your exertions to introduce
more discipline, and to do away the un
happy and pernicious distinctions and
jealousies between the troops of different

Sufficient harmony seems finally to
have been established between Schuyler
and Gates for co-operation, after receiv
ing the decision of Congress ; and the
two proceeded together to the American
army at Crown Point, accom
panied by Arnold, who had gone
to Albany to report the state of the
troops after the retreat, and the threat
ening progress of the enemy. Upon
reaching Crown Point, a council of war
was held, and it was resolved unanim
ously that that post should be abandoned
and the army removed to Ticonderoga.
This was opposed by many of the subor
dinate officers, who resorted to the un-
military proceeding of preparing and
signing a remonstrance against the deci
sion of their superiors. Washington him
self, on receiving this extraordinary paper,
although he condemned the signers of it,
seems to have been impressed with the
views they held in regard to the abandon
ment of Crown Point. "I doubt not,"
he writes, " that the measure was duly
weighed by the general officers in coun
cil, and seemed to them best calculated to
secure the colonies, and prevent the ene
my from penetrating into them. How
ever, I can not but observe though I do
not mean to encourage in the smallest



[PART n.

degree, or to give the least .sanction to
inferior officers to set up their opinions
against the proceedings and councils of
their superiors, knowing the dangerous
tendency of such a practice that the
reasons assigned by the officers in their
remonstrance appear to me forcible and
of great weight." The subject was sub
sequently greatly discussed, and finally
the opinion of all military men concurred
in justifying the expediency of the re
moval of the army to Ticonderoga.

Washington, troubled by the unfor
tunate result in Canada, could get but
little consolation from the state of things
in New York. Howe was hourly ex
pected, with his army greatly increased
by large reinforcements of British regu
lars, and mercenary troops composed of
Hessians, Brunswickers, and other Ger
mans; and Washington knew that his
own force was neither in such numbers
nor condition as to resist successfully a
vigorous attack. Called to Philadelphia
by Congress, to aid them with his coun
sels in this emergency, he succeeded in
prevailing upon them to vote a reinforce
ment to the army of thirteen thousand
eight hundred militia, the formation of a
flying camp to consist of ten thousand
men, and the construction of as many
fire rafts, gondolas and floating batteries
as might be deemed necessary by Wash
ington for the defence of the bay and
rivers surrounding New York. During
his absence, General Putnam succeeded
to the temporary command, and contin
ued to push vigorously the various works
at New York, while Greene was no less
active on Long Island.

Washington, on his return, as he
thought that the enemy would probably
soon after their arrival, attempt to force
their way up the North river, determined
to erect new, and strengthen the old for
tifications on its. banks, with the view of
preventing the passage of the British ves
sels. He accordingly ordered Colonel
James Clinton, a New York officer, to
take the command, and complete the con
struction of Fort Montgomery, near the
Highlands, and Fort Constitution on an
island opposite to West Point. Other
works were also begun under the super
vision of the chief engineer, Colonel Eu-
fus Putnam, at King s Bridge and on
the neighboring heights. There were a
breastwork to defend the bridge, a redoubt
on a hill overlooking the Hudson river,
where, by means of the Spuyten Duyvil
creek, it joins the Harlem river, and forms
the northern water-boundary of the island
of New York, and a strong fortification
called Fort Washington, also on the Hud
son, but several miles nearer New York.
This last work was directly opposite to
Fort Lee, w T hich was on the west side, and
it was supposed that the two together
could command the passage.

Washington, while thus providing de
fences against the open enemies of the
country, was beset by the machinations
of some secret plotters against him and
his army. By the disclosure of one of
Washington s own guard, who had been
tampered with, a conspiracy was discov
ered, which was supposed to have for its
object the capture of Washington, a gen
eral massacre of his principal officers, the
spiking of the guns, the blowing up of




the forts and magazines, and the securing
of the passes of the city, in order that
New York and the patriot army might
be at the mercy of Howe on the day of
his arrival.

An investigation having taken place,
the plot was traced through the dirty
sources of various pot-houses, tavern-
keepers, gunsmiths, negro servants, drum
mers, fifers, and the mayor, Matthews, to
the arch-conspirator Tryon himself. This
tory governor, it seems, had, from his safe
refuge on board a man-of-war off Sandy
Hook, where the British ships were at
anchor, devised the scheme, and tempted
the worthless to co-operate with him by
the offer of five pounds and two hundred
acres of land to each man who should
enter the king s service, one hundred
acres to his wife, and fifty to each child,
with the understanding that he should

remain in New York and lend his aid se
cretly to the royal cause. The mayor,
in conjunction with many of his fellow
tory citizens, readily concurred in and
gave their aid to Tryon s plot. A large
number of worthless fellows, who were
in the habit of resorting to the low pot
houses of the town, were easily won over
by the governor s bribe, and among these
were some of the most dissolute of the sol
diers. Washington s own guard
even supplied two of the villains.
One of the name of Thomas Hickey, an
Irish deserter from the British army, a
stout, dark-faced fellow, was tried by
court-martial, and, being found guilty of
mutiny and treason, was led out by a
strong military guard, and hung in a
field, now forming a part of the Bowery,
before a crowd of twenty thousand spec

June 28.


Sir Henry Clinton on the Move. The South his Object. The Provincials timely informed. Arrival of British Fleet auu
Troops off the Coast of South Carolina. Clinton s Life and Character. Charleston on the Alert. Preparations to
receive the Enemy. General Lee on the Ground. Assumes the Command. Lee suggests to swear the Militia in.
Governor Rutledge opposes. Lee s emphatic Appeal. The Provincial Deficiencies. Lee s Anxiety. The English
Fleet taking Position. Lee lectures his Men. The Attack on Fort Sullivan begins. The Response from the Ameri
can Batteries. The unsuccessful Attempt of the British to land. Lee encouraged by the Good Conduct of the Militia.
The British beaten off. The Havoc. Sir Peter s " Honor gone." Wounded in the Breech. The heroic Sergeant
Jasper. MacDonald. The Actaen in Flames. Moultrie s Gallantry. Fort Sullivan receives the Name of Moultrie.
The beaten British sail for New York.


IT will be recollected that Sir

Henry Clinton, as has been already
recorded, left Boston with a small fleet
in the month of January. New York
was at that time supposed to be the ob
ject of the expedition, and in fact Clin

ton called in there with a single vessel,
where Lee, having been sent by Wash
ington to oppose his landing, happened
to arrive on the same day, and wrote
thus of the occurrence : " He [Clinton]
brought no troops with him, and pledges



[PART n.

his honor none are coming. He says it
is merely a visit to his friend Tryon. If
it is really so, it is the most whimsical
piece of civility I ever heard of." What
ever might be Clinton s purpose in his
visit to New York, an attack on that city
was certainly not the object of his expe

Howe had received a despatch from
the British government, in which it was
stated that assurances had been received
that the inhabitants of the southern colo
nies were so loyally disposed that they
were ready to join the king s army on
the least show of force there. Clinton
was accordingly to be sent with a respect
able display of British power, in order
to encourage the manifestations of the
cautious loyalty of the South. If, how
ever, these expectations of tory concur
rence should prove unfounded, he was to
gain possession "of some respectable post
to the southward, from which the rebels
might be annoyed by sudden and unex
pected attacks on their towns upon the
sea-coast during open winter," and Clin
ton was positively ordered to destroy
any towns which would not submit to
the king s authority.

Clinton had sailed from Boston with
orders from Howe, based on this despatch.
The Americans became aware of the ob
ject of his expedition, by the fortunate
capture of a British vessel, on board of
which was found this letter addressed by
the British government to Governor Eden
of Maryland:

"WHITEHALL, December 23, 1775.

"Sir: An armament of seven regi
ments, with a fleet of frigates and small

ships, is now in readiness to proceed to
the southern colonies, in order to attempt
the restoration of legal government in
that part of America. It will proceed
in the first place to North Carolina, and
from thence either to South Carolina or
Virginia, as circumstances shall point

This fleet of men-of-war and transports
was under the command of Admiral Sir
Peter Parker, and reached the rendezvous
at Cape Fear in May, where they joined
the small squadron which had brought
Sir Henry Clinton and his troops from


Nothing could be done in Vir-
as Lord Dunmore s ill success

proved ; and nothing in North Carolina,
as was equally clear from the mishap of
Governor Martin, with his Highlanders
and Regulators in that colony. It was
therefore determined to try South Caro
lina, and begin by making an attempt on
Charleston. Confident in their large
naval armament under Parker, and their
numerous troops which amounted in all
to three thousand men under Cornwallis
and Clinton, who now assumed the com
mand of all the land forces, they sailed
down the coast, in full anticipation of an
easy victory. The admiral s well-known
dash and courage gave spirit to his men,
and the soldiers obeyed with alacrity their
general, who, although still young, had
served with honor in the wars of Europe.
Henry Clinton was of distinguished
family. His grandfather was the earl of
Lincoln, and his father was appointed,
through the influence of his aristocratic
connections, governor of New York in
1743. The son entered the army at an



early age, and had served in a European
campaign, when he was raised to the rank
of major-general, and ordered to Boston
with General Howe in 1775. He showed
his martial spirit and courage while there
by dashing across the river to the aid of
Howe during his struggle with the patri
ots on Bunker s hill, although without a
command on that day. He had now been
chosen for a service of moment, not only
on account of his prominent military rank,
but also for his well-known skill and dar
ing. Clinton was not popular with the
multitude, but his friendship was cher
ished by the few. He looked the Eng
lishman with his " short and fat" body,
" his full face and prominent nose " and
had that cold reserve of manner, with
casual acquaintances, which is supposed
to characterize his countrymen.

South Carolina was not unprepared for
the formidable force now sailing down its
coast, and threatening destruction to its
chief city. Throughout the province the
patriots had been diligent, and particu
larly at Charleston, which, from its impor
tance as a commercial town, the excel
lence of its harbor, and the command it
gave of the interior country and the
southern coast, presented a desirable cap
ture to the enemy. To secure the town
against such a misfortune, the patriots
busied themselves in fortifying it, and
principally the islands which command
the approach to the harbor. The chief
works were erected on the southwestern
extremity of Sullivan s and on James s
islands, in order to defend the passage
between the two, which leads from the
sea to the harbor. On the former was


built a strong fort of palmetto, w r hich is
peculiarly serviceable for the purpose of
defence, since, from its spongy texture, a
ball on striking it sinks into it, withou
splitting the w r ood or shattering the struc
ture. Colonel Moultrie had constructed
this fort, and, mounting it with twenty-
six heavy cannon, now garrisoned it with
three hundred and seventy-five South-
Carolina regulars and some few militia
men. The work on James s island, which
was called Fort Johnson, was in charge
of Colonel Gadsden, commanding a sin
gle regiment. Cannon, with breastworks,
were also placed on the northeastern end
of Sullivan s island ; at Wad dell s point,
on the mainland to the north ; and along
the w r harves in front of the town.

When the intelligence reached Charles
ton that the British fleet had an
chored off the coast about eigh
teen miles from Sullivan s island, the
whole country around was aroused into
activity by the firing of the alarm-guns
from the forts. The militia were every
where called out, and hurried to the de
fence of the capital. Some, on their ar
rival, were distributed among the several
garrisons ; while others joined the inhab
itants, in strengthening the immediate de

Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 37 of 126)