Robert Tomes.

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

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his act, not only on the ground of its ne
cessity, but its policy. " Although I have
lost a post," he exclaims, " I have event
ually saved a state ;" and, notwithstand
ing the slanders which for a time were
visited upon him by the ignorant and un
charitable, it was not long before his proud
boast was recognised as the statement of
a fact.

These slanders against the generals,
however, circulated so freely and with so
much effect in the army, that the troops
became widely disaffected, and either lost
all spirit for the service or abandoned it
altogether. Schuyler himself gives this
discouraging account of his force : " It
consists of about twenty-seven
hundred continental troops; of
militia from the state of Connecticut, one
major, one captain, two lieutenants, tw r o
ensigns, one adjutant, one quartermaster,
six sergeants, one drummer, six sick and
three rank and file fit for duty ; the rest,
after remaining three or four days, desert
ed us : of those from the county of Berk
shire (in the Massachusetts), who consist
ed of upward of twelve hundred, half of
which were to have remained, somew T hat
more than two hundred are left, the re
mainder having also deserted : of Colonel
Moseley s regiment from the county of
Hampshire (Massachusetts), about ten or
twelve are left, the rest having deserted :
of Colonel Porter s regiment of the coun
ty of Hampshire, about two hundred left :
of the militia of the county of Albany, ten
hundred and fifty are left, being forty-six
more than half of what were upon the




ground, when it was resolved to let half

3 /

return to their habitations."

" That torpor," adds Schuyler, as a com
mentary upon the facts he had just stated,
kk criminal indifference, and want of spirit,
which so generally prevails, is more dan
gerous than all the efforts of the enemy.
Nor is that jealousy and spirit of detrac
tion, which so unhappily prevails, of small
detriment to our cause."

Major-General Arnold, flattered by the
complimentary preference of Washington,
and eager for action, did not hesitate to
proceed to the North when ordered by
Congress, in accordance with the advice
of the commander-in-chief. Although he
would thus be obliged to serve under St.
Clair, who was one of the five major-gen
erals whose promotion above him had so
grievously wounded Arnold s spirit, he
yet for the present generously waived all
personal feeling, and took the subordinate
position. On joining General Schuyler,
at Fort Edward, Arnold moved with the
army to Moses creek, and received the
command of the left division, encamped
on one side of the Hudson river ; while
Major-General St. Clair commanded the
right, on the opposite side.

General Burgoyne, after lingering three
weeks at Skenesborough, at length began
his march toward the south. Instead of
returning to Ticonderoga,and thence pro
ceeding by Lake George to Fort George
(whence there was a good road to Fort
Edward, which was his object), he deter
mined to strike across the country by a
more direct route. Fearful, however, that
turning back would appear like a retreat,
and thus destroy the prestige of his late

triumph, or influenced by the opinion of
the tory Major Skene, of Skenesborough
(who is suspected of having advised the
land-route, that the value of his property,
of which he was an extensive holder in
that neighborhood, might be enhanced by
a military road), Burgoyne marched for
ward. His route was naturally a difficult
and laborious one, through a country of
forest and swamp, where he had to cut
down trees, plunge into morasses, and
throw bridges across the numerous creeks,
ravines, and gulleys. The weather, too,
was sultry, and the musketoes abounded,
greatly tormenting his men, whose Euro
pean freshness seemed to provoke these
annoying insects to more than ordinary
bloodthirstiness. Schuyler s precautions
in destroying the bridges, and obstructing
the roads and passes with felled trees, also
added greatly to the difficulties and de
lays of Burgoyne s march. He, however,
continued his route toward Fort Edward ;
while General Phillips, with the artillery,
provisions, and baggage, guarded by a
strong detachment of troops, proceeded
by the way of Lake George, with the pur
pose of forming on the Hudson a junc
tion with the main body, which had pre
ceded him by land.

In the course of his progress, while the
country was impressed by his recent tri
umphs and his overwhelming force, Bur
goyne strove to induce the inhabitants to
abandon the American cause. He issued
a swelling proclamation, abounding in the
usual promises of reward for compliance
and threats of punishment for disobedi
ence. General Schuyler put forth a no
less rhetorical counter-edict, in which the




people, being reminded how the British
in New Jersey had "cruelly butchered,
without distinction of age or sex; ravished
children from ten to women of eighty
years of age ;" burned, pillaged, and de
stroyed, not even sparing " in their sacri
legious fury those edifices dedicated to
the worship of Almighty God," were told
that the same fate awaited them.

While everything thus appeared so dis
astrous for the American cause in the
North, an event occurred in Ehode Isl
and which, however trifling in itself, great
ly stimulated the spirit of the country.
General Prescott was in command of the
British troops at Rhode island, and held
his headquarters at a farmhouse near the
water, about five miles from Newport.
Lieutenant-Colonel Barton, in command
of a regiment of Rhode-Island militia, de
termined to surprise him and carry him
off. He accordingly selected thirty-eight
men, in whom he had confidence, and set
out on the expedition one dark night.
From Warwick neck they rowed over in
two boats, with muffled oars, to the op
posite side of the bay, a distance of ten
miles. Having passed the British men-
of-war and guard-boats without exciting
alarm, they landed, and silently proceed
ed on. Upon reaching the house, they
secured the sentinel, and entered. Arri
ving at the door of the room where the
British general slept, they found it locked;
whereupon a negro of the name of Prince,
who was at Barton s side, and is spoken

of as his " confidential friend," with a leap
" plunged his head against the door, and
knocked out the panel, through which the
colonel entered."* Prescott was found in
bed, and immediately secured. His aid-
de-camp attempted to escape from the
house by leaping through a window, but
was caught and carried over to the main
land together with the general. Barton
and his party returned with their prize
across the bay, silently and cautiously as
they came. Prescott, who seemed great
ly surprised at the success of Barton s en
terprise, remarked to him as they landed,
" Sir, I did not think it possible you could
escape the vigilance of the water-guards."
The boldness, skill, and success, with
which the enterprise had been conducted,
were highly lauded. Congress voted Bar
ton a sword, and promoted him to the
rank of a colonel of the continental army.
The country exulted more particularly
over the capture of Prescott, because in
an officer of his rank they held an equiv
alent for Major-General Lee, still a pris
oner, for whom Washington immediately
proposed to exchange the British com
mander. In the meanwhile, Prescott was
ordered to be " genteelly accommodated,
but strongly guarded," and removed into
some place " where the people are gener
ally well affected." He was refused his
liberty on parole, and it was determined
to treat him in every respect as Lee was
treated by the British.

* Holmes s Annals of America.



[PART n.


Puzzling Conduct of General Howe. He is supposed to seek a Junction with General Burgoync. Lord Stirling sent to
Peekskill. The Departure of the British Fleet from New York. A Pithy Letter from General Putnam. A Trick of
the British exposed. The Enemy off the Capes of Delaware. They sail away again. Washington perplexed. lie
moves his Army to Germantown. Washington in Philadelphia. Meeting with the Marquis de Lafayette. His Life
and Character. His Devotion to the American Cause. His Interviews with Franklin and Deane. His Escape from
Franco. Arrival in America. His First Impressions. His Joyous Progress. His First Rebuff. Final Success.
Appointed Major-General. Becomes a Member of Washington s Family. Washington s Opinion of Him Count
Pulaski. His Life and Character. He is appointed Major-General and Commander of the Cavalry.


GENERAL HOWE S " conduct is puz
zling and embarrassing beyond
measure ; so are the informations which

July 22,

I get/ writes Washington. " At

one time the ships are standing
up toward the North river; in a little
they are going up the sound ; and in an
hour after they are going out of the Hook."
Washington, however, was for awhile so
far persuaded that Howe s object was to
form a junction with General Burgoyne,
by the Hudson, that he sent Lord Stir
ling with his division to Peekskill, and
moved with the rest of his army to Ram-
apo. But, while here, he learned that
, Sir William Howe had left New

York, with a fleet of two hun
dred and sixty-seven sail, and a land-force
of about sixteen thousand men, made up
of thirty-six British and Hessian battal
ions, a powerful artillery, a New-York
corps called the Queen s Rangers, and a
regiment of light-horse. Sir Henry Clin
ton was left at New York with seventeen
battalions, a regiment of light-horse, and
a corps of American loyalists. Clinton
had been to Europe, and his return was
first made known to General Putnam by

receiving from him a flag of truce, with
a demand to give up Lieutenant Palmer.
This provoked the following memorable

reply :-

"HEADQUARTERS, 7 Aug., 1777.

" Edmund Palmer, an officer in the ene
my s service, was taken as a spy, lurking
within our lines; he has been tried as a
spy, condemned as a spy, and shall be
executed as a spy, and the flag is ordered
to depart immediately.


" P. S. He has been accordingly exe

Washington also received such infor
mation as induced him to believe that
tlie Delaware was General Howe s desti
nation. It became necessaiy, therefore,
to move the army back again in that di
rection, and to recall the divisions of Lord
Stirling and General Sullivan from the
Hudson river.

As Washington was preparing for his
march toward the Delaware, he received
through General Putnam the following
letter, addressed to General Burgoyne,

O / /

which a young man had brought into the
American camp at Peekskill:



(< NKW YORK, July 20, 1777.
SIR: I have received your let
ter of the 14th of May, from Quebec, and
shall fully observe the contents. The

expedition to B n [Boston] will take

place of that up the North river. If, ac
cording to my expectations, we may suc
ceed rapidly in the possession of B ,

the enemy having no force of consequence
there, 1 shall, without loss of time, pro
ceed to co-operate with you in the defeat
of the rebel army opposed to you. Clin
ton is sufficiently strong to amuse Wash
ington and Putnam. I am now making
demonstration to the southward, which I
think will have the full effect in carrying
our plan into execution. Success attend
you! "W. HOWE."

The story of the young man who had
presented himself, and given up the let
ter, was this : He had, he said, been a pris
oner in New York, and was offered a hand
some sum for carrying the letter to Gen
eral Burgoyne, which at first he refused
to do, but subsequently consented, with
the intention of taking it to she American
camp. Washington no sooner read the
letter, than he saw that it was a trick.
"It was evidently intended," says he, " to
fall into our hands. The complexion of
it, the circumstances attending it, evince
this beyond a doubt in my mind." He
accordingly urged Putnam to lose no time
in sending on General Sullivan and Lord
Stirling with their divisions, while Wash
ington himself moved the main body to
Coryell s ferry on the Delaware, in order
to be ready to cross that river as soon
as the enemy made a movement toward
Philadelphia. To General Gates, who was

then in that city, Washington wrote, ur
ging him to be on the alert for informa
tion, and to transmit it as soon as he had
ascertained it to his satisfaction ; for he
declares that he himself will pay no re
gard to any flying reports of the appear
ance of the fleet.

From Philadelphia soon came the in
telligence that the enemy had arrived off
the capes of Delaware. Next day, how
ever, an express came hurrying into the
camp with the news that the fleet had
borne away again, taking an easterly
course. "Now, surely the North river
must be their object," thought Washing
ton ; and he orders General Sullivan back
again to Peekskill, for the " importance
of preventing Mr. Howe s getting posses
sion of the Highlands, by a coup de mam,
is infinite to America." Washington, thus
perplexed by the strange movements of
the enemy, finally moves his army across
the Delaware, and encamps at German-
town, about six miles from Phila
delphia. His letter to his broth
er Augustine at this time is the best ex
position of his movements and perplexi
ties :

"Since General Howe removed from
the Jerseys," writes Washington, "the
troops under my command have been
more harassed by marching and counter
marching than by any other thing that
has happened to them in the course of
the campaign. After he had embarked
his troops, the presumption that he would
co-operate upon the North river, to form
a junction with General Burgoyne, was
so strong, that I removed from Middle-
brook to Morristown, and from Morris-



[PART n.

town to the Clove, a narrow passage lead
ing through the Highlands, about eigh
teen miles from the river. Indeed, upon
some pretty strong presumptive evidence,
I threw two divisions over the North riv
er. In this situation we lay till about the
2 4 th ultimo [July], when, receiving cer
tain information that the fleet had actu
ally sailed from Sandy Hook, and upon
the concurring sentiment of every one,
though I acknowledge my doubts of it
were strong, that Philadelphia was their
object, we countermarched, and got to
Cory ell s ferry on the Delaware, about
thirty-three miles above the city, on the
27th [July], where I lay until I received
information from Congress that the ene
my were actually at the capes of Dela
ware. This brought us in great haste to
this place [German town], for the defence
of the city [Philadelphia]. But, in less
than twenty-four hours after our arrival,
we got accounts of the disappearance of
the fleet on the 31st [July] ; since which,
nothing having been heard of them, we
have remained here in a very irksome
state of suspense ; some imagining that
they are gone to the southward, whilst a
majority, in whose opinion upon this oc
casion I concur, are satisfied that they are
gone eastward. The fatigue, however,
and injury, which men must sustain by
long marches in such extreme heat as we
have felt for the last five days, must keep
us quiet till we hear something of the
destination of the enemy."

While the army was encamped at Ger-
mantown, Washington was frequently in
Philadelphia. On one of these occasions
Ii9 for the first time met the marquis de

Lafayette, at dinner. When the party
was breaking up, Washington took him
aside, and, having complimented him up
on the noble disinterestedness which he
had shown in behalf of the American
cause,invited him to headquarters, telling
him that he might always consider it as
his home, and himself as one of the fam
ily. The American commander, however,
remarked in a tone of pleasantry that he
could not promise him the luxuries of a
court, or even the conveniences which
his former habits might have rendered
essential to his comfort- but added that,
since the young nobleman had become
an American soldier, he would doubtless
try to accommodate himself to the char
acter which he had assumed, and submit
to the manners, customs, and privations,
of a republican army.

FAYETTE was born on the 6th of Septem
ber, 1757, at Chavagnac, in the province
of Auvergne, France, and was married be
fore he was eighteen years of age to the
grand-daughter of the due de Noailles.
Like most French youth of rank and for
tune at that time, he entered the army ;
and, while on duty at Metz, he tells us
that his enthusiasm in behalf of the Amer
ican cause was first awakened. The duke
of Gloucester, a brother of King George
III, happened to be on a visit to Metz,
where he was complimented with a din
ner by the commandant of the place. The
young marquis de Lafayette was one of
the guests on the occasion. The Ameri
can war (apropos to some despatches late
ly received in England) became a topic
of conversation at dinner; and, although



the royal English duke was not likely to
have given a very favorable coloring to
the cause of the "rebels," Lafayette s in
terest was at once so much awakened by
his grace s talk, that, even before he arose
from the table, the thought suggested it
self to him of offering his services in be
half of a people struggling for independ

With his young heart filled with en
thusiasm for liberty, the marquis hurries
to Paris, and there seeks out his two bo
som friends, Count Segur and Viscount
de Noailles, to whom he announces his
intention to go to America, and entreats
them to join him in the enterprise. They
readily consent ; but, on consulting their
parents, upon whom they are dependent
for support, they are forced to abandon
the scheme. They, however, kept their
friend s secret. Lafayette, being in the
enjoyment of an income of nearly forty
thousand dollars a year, was in a position
of greater independence than his youth
ful companions, and therefore resolutely
clung to his original plan. He soon ob
tained an interview with the count de
Broglie, then prime minister under Louis
XVI., who, with the cautious prudence of
age, strove to deter the young enthusiast
from what appeared to him a rash and
dangerous enterprise. " I have," said the
veteran, " seen your uncle die in the wars
of Italy ; I witnessed your father s death
at the battle of Minden ; and I will not
be accessory to the ruin of the only re
maining branch of the family."

De Broglie continued urgently to coun
sel the youthful marquis against the un
dertaking ; but, finding his efforts useless,

he introduced him to Baron de Kalb, a
Prussian officer, who had been in Amer
ica, in order that the inexperienced La
fayette might obtain from him the intro
ductions and information he desired. De
Kalb presented him to Silas Deane, the
American commissioner in Paris. " When
I presented my boyish face to Mr. Deane,"
says Lafayette, "I spoke more of my ar
dor in the cause than of rny experience ;
but I dwelt much upon the effect my de
parture would excite in France, and he
signed our agreement." The purport of
this agreement was, that the young mar
quis should, on joining the American ser
vice, receive from Congress the appoint
ment of major-general, and be conveyed
to America in a vessel about to sail, with
munitions of war for the patriot armies.
In the meantime, news having arrived of
the success of the British at Fort Wash
ington, and of the subsequent retreat of
the American army through New Jersey,
the activity of French sympathy was so
far checked, that the despatching of the
French vessel with supplies was necessa
rily abandoned.

The enthusiasm of the ardent Lafay
ette was, however, proof against the most
disastrous news. When urged to give
up his scheme, he answered : " My zeal
and love of liberty have, perhaps, been
hitherto the prevailing motives ; but now
I see a chance for usefulness, which I had
not anticipated. I have money: I will
purchase a ship, which shall convey to
America myself, my companions, and the
freight for Congress." Accordingly, he did
purchase a ship j and, while it was fitting
at Bordeaux, for sea, Lafayette took the




occasion of visiting England. His wife s
uncle, the marquis de Noailles, was the
French embassador in London ; and un
der such auspices he was, of course, read
ily admitted to the court and the society
which gathered about it. His first visit,
however, was to an American, Mr. Ban
croft. He was subsequently presented to
the king ; he danced at the homes of Lord
George Germain, then minister of Ameri-


can affairs, and of Lord Rawdon, who had
just returned from New York ; and joined
General Sir Henry Clinton in his box at
the opera, whom he was destined after
ward to meet as an enemy on the field
of battle. Lafayette says, in regard to
these intimacies with the society of Lon
don : " Whilst I concealed rny intentions
of going to make war in America, I open
ly avowed my sentiments; I often defend
ed the Americans ; I rejoiced at their suc
cess at Trenton ; and my opposition spirit
obtained for me an invitation to break
fast with Lord Shelburne. I refused the
offers made me to visit the seaports, the
vessels fitting out against the rebels, and
everything that might be construed into
an abuse of confidence."

On Lafayette s return to France, he
concealed himself for some days at Passy,
where he saw but a few of his personal
friends and some Americans, among whom
was Doctor Franklin, who, with Arthur
Lee, of Virginia, had become joint com
missioners with Deane. Franklin admired
the spirit and generous disinterestedness
of the marquis, and furthered his objects.
On Lafayette s leaving for Bordeaux, to
embark, the French government, thro ugh
the complaint of the British embassador

in Paris, was on the alert, and strove to
prevent his departure. His family also,
with the exception of his young wife, who
shared in her husband s enthusiasm for
the American cause, were anxious that
he should abandon his scheme. He suc
ceeded in reaching Bordeaux, and imme
diately set sail for Passage, a small sea
port in Spain, where he proposed to wait
for the ship s papers. Here, however, fol
lowed him a lettre de cachet from the king,
forbidding his departure, and letters from
the government ministers and from his
family, insisting up the abandonment of
his enterprise. But finally, after some
hair- breadth escapes from pursuit, and
meeting with one or two romantic adven
tures, he got safely to sea, leaving his
young wife and child behind him. Bar
on de Kalb and several other military
personages, looking for service in Amer
ica, accompanied him. The ship arrived
at Charleston, and the young marquis s
impressions seem to have been of the
most agreeable kind. The democratic
features of American life were the first
to catch the eye of the high-born noble
man fresh from the ceremonious court of
Versailles, but the effect was apparently
no less delightful than new.

" I will now tell you," writes Lafayette
to his wife, " about the country and its
inhabitants. They are as agreeable as
my enthusiasm had painted them. Sim
plicity of manners, kindness, love of coun
try and of liberty, and a delightful equal
ity, everywhere prevail. The wealthiest
man and the poorest are on a level ; and,
although there are some large fortunes,
I challenge any one to discover the slight-



cst difference between the manners of
these two classes respectively toward each
other. I first saw the country-life at the
house of Major Huger. I am now in the
city [Charleston], where everything is
very much after the English fashion, ex
cept that there is more simplicity, equal
ity, cordiality, and courtesy, here than in

" The city of Charleston is one of the
handsomest and best built, and the inhab
itants among the most agreeable, that I
have ever seen. The American women
are very pretty, simple in their manners,
and exhibit a neatness which is every
where cultivated, even more studiously
than in England. What most charms me
is, that all the citizens are brethren. In
America, there are no poor, nor even what
we call peasantry. Each individual has
his own honest property, and the same
rights as the most wealthy landed propri
etor. The inns are very different from

Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 65 of 126)