Robert Tomes.

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

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saken by the Indians. An Indian Practical Joke. Fort Schuyler relieved. Arnold hastens to join Gates.


CONGRESS had determined that

Aug. 1.

a court of inquiry should be held,
to investigate the conduct of Generals
Schuyler and St. Clair, in consequence of
the surrender of the posts at Ticondero-
ga and Mount Independence. They were
accordingly ordered, though the
time was not yet specified, to
hold themselves in readiness to proceed
to headquarters. In the meantime, it was
resolved to supersede General Schuyler
in the command of the northern depart
ment. The appointment of his successor
was referred by Congress to Washington,

who, however, declined this responsibili
ty, telling them in reply : " The northern
department in a great measure has been
considered as separate, and more pecu
liarly under their direction; and the offi
cers commanding there always of their
nomination. I have never interfered fur
ther than merely to advise, and to give
such aids as were in my power, on the re
quisitions of those officers. The present
situation of that department is delicate
and critical, and the choice of an officer
to the command may involve very inter
esting and important consequences."



[PART n.

When Congress authorized Washing
ton to make the appointment, the New-
En ^l and delegates were so anxious that

O o

their favorite should receive it, that they
Avrote to the commander-in-chief, urging
him to appoint General Gates, and ex
pressing the opinion that "no man will
be more likely to restore harmony, order,
and discipline, and retrieve our affairs in
that quarter." This attempt to influence
his judgment probably induced Washing
ton to decline all interference in the mat
ter. On the question being again brought
up before Congress, Gates received the

General Schuyler, of whose patriotism
and active devotion to the interests of his
country there could be no doubt, was ex
ceedingly unpopular with New England.
The cause has been attributed to the old
quarrel growing out of the dispute in re
gard to the boundary-line between his
native colony of New York and that of
Massachusetts Bay. Schuyler had served
as a boundary-commissioner., and, in his
zealous defence of the claims of New York,
is supposed to have incurred the ill feel
ing of New England. It is far more prob
able, however, that the formal manners,
and the claims to social distinction of the
more aristocratic " ; New-Yorker," did not
accord with the rude simplicity of the
equality-loving "Yankee." Gates, who
was of a social turn, and easy in his man
ners, on the other hand, succeeded in con
ciliating the New-England people, and
possessed at this time all their love and
confidence. His appointment, therefore,
was gladly welcomed ; and, although witli
the success at Bennington, and the diffi-

Ang. 19,

culties then in the way of Burgoyne, by
the strenuous exertions of Schuyler, the
army and the inhabitants of the North and
East had got rid of much of their panic,
there is no doubt that the appearance of
Gates served greatly to quicken the res
toration of their confidence and courage.

Schuyler courteously received Gates
when he presented himself at the camp
at Van Schaick s island (where
the Mohawk enters the Hudson),
to assume the command of the army. Ee-
pressing his vexation at the treatment of
Congress, the superseded general told his
successor that he intended to remain in
the camp for the present, and begged him
to avail himself freely of his services.

That Schuyler was deeply wounded is
apparent from his letter to Washington.
" It is," writes he, " matter of extreme cha
grin to me to be deprived of the command,
at a time when soon, if ever, we shall
probably be enabled to meet the enemy
when we are on the point of taking
ground where they must attack to disad
vantage, should our force be inadequate
to facing them in the field when an op
portunity will in all probability occur, in
which I might evince that I am not what
Congress have too plainly insinuated, by
the resolution taking the command from

General Gates, when first setting out,
was not much encouraged by the pros
pect of his northern command ; but when
he reached the camp, he found that the
tide of affairs had taken a more favorable
turn. " Upon my leaving Philadelphia,"
he wrote to Washington, " the prospect
this way appeared most gloomy ; but the




severe checks the enemy have met at
Bennington and Tryon county have giv
en a more pleasing view of public affairs.
I can not sufficiently thank your excel
lency for sending Colonel Morgan s corps.
They will be of the greatest service to
the army ; for, until the late successes
this way, I am told it was quite panic-
struck by the Indians, and their tory and
Canadian assassins in Indian dress. Few
of the militia demanded are yet arrived,
but I hear of great numbers on their

Gates inaugurated his command by on
attack with his pen on Burgoyne. That
general had sent in a complaint of the
treatment received by the prisoners ta
ken at Bennington. Gates retorted by
denouncing the employment of the Indi
ans, and holding Burgoyne responsible
for their cruelties. In the course of his
letter he described, in a strain of turgid
rhetoric, the tra.gic death of Jane M Crea,
and concluded by saying, " The miserable
fate of Miss M Crea was peculiarly aggra
vated by her being dressed to receive her
promised husband, but met her murderer,
employed by you!" Nor was this all; he
added: "Upward of one hundred men,
women, and children, have perished by
the hands of ruffians, to whom it is assert
ed you have paid the price of Mood /"

After Gates had elaborated his epistle,
he called General Lincoln and his adju
tant-general (Wilkinson) into his apart
ment, read it to them, and asked their
opinion. They modestly declined to give
it. The general, however, pressed them,
when they both declared, as might be ex
pected from the extracts which we have

given, that the letter was too personal.
Gates, with the usual vanity of author
ship, replied testily, " By G-d, I don t be
lieve either of you can mend it !" It was
therefore sent without amendment.

Burgoyne was naturally indignant at
the charges of Gates, and took pains, in
a long answer, to refute them. In regard
to the tragic death of Miss M Crea, he de
clared that it was no premeditated bar
barity ; that no one regretted it more
than himself; and that, moreover, the
murderer should have been executed, had
it not been believed that a pardon on the
terms to be granted would be more effi
cacious to prevent further outrage. As
for the other Indian cruelties, Burgoyne
denied them, and, in regard to the com
plicity of which he was accused, emphat
ically asserted "I would not be con
scious of the acts you presume to impute
to me, for the whole continent of Amer
ica, though the wealth of worlds was in
its bowels, and a paradise upon its sur

It may be presumed that Gates himself
did not believe that Burgoyne was the
criminal which his letter would seem to
indicate. His object was to exaggerate
the cruelties of the enemy, in order to
excite the horror and indignation of the
country. He was merely availing him
self of what he believed to be a justifia
ble ruse de guerre, and it proved wondrous-
ly effective. Gates s exaggerated state
ments and rhetorical bombast accorded
with the excited and unreflecting senti
ment of the times, and his letter became
immensely popular.

General Arnold, who, as we have seen,


[PART n.

had gone to the relief of the garrison at
Fort Schuyler, soon overtook the detach
ment of eight hundred men, under Gen
eral Learned, which had preceded him.
On reaching Fort Dayton, at the German
Flats, where there was a small guard of
continental troops, it was found that the
whole force which could be mustered
amounted to only nine hundred and for
ty-six regulars and one hundred militia.
It was therefore deemed imprudent, with
so meager a force, to attempt an attack
upon Colonel St. Leger, who was invest
ing Fort Schuyler with a miscellaneous
body of Indians, Canadians, and regulars,
numbering no less than seventeen hun
dred. Arnold sent to Gates for reinforce
ments, and in the meantime tried the effi
cacy of a proclamation. He was a great
master of grandiloquence, and on the
present occasion outdid his usual efforts.
Presenting himself as the " Honorable
Benedict Arnold, Esquire, general and
commander-in-chief of the army of the
United States of America on the Mohawk
river," he proclaimed a free pardon to all
who joined or upheld him, " whether sav
ages, Germans, Americans, or Britons,"
provided they should lay down their arms
and take the oath of allegiance to the
United States within three days. Those
who would not were threatened with the
"just vengeance of Heaven and their ex
asperated country," from either of which
no mercy was to be expected ! Colonel
St. Leger was denounced as a "leader of
a banditti of robbers, murderers, and trai
lers, composed of savages of America and
more savage Britons," who were threat
ening ruin and destruction to the people.

This swelling manifesto had its effect, but
proved less efficacious than another de
vice which sprang from the teeming womb
of Yankee ingenuity.

LieutenantrColonel Brooks, of the Ma.s-
sachusettsline,suggested the employment
of a man of the name of Hanyost Schuy
ler, or Yan Yost Cuyler, as an emissary
to be sent into the camp of the enemy,
with an exaggerated report of Arnold s
numbers, in order to alarm the Indians.
This fellow, who was known to be a tory,
had been arrested while prowling about
the American encampment, and was con
demned to be executed as a spy. He
was now brought before General Arnold,
who promised him a pardon if he would
perform the service required of him. He
readily consented, and was sent away to
St. Leger s camp; while, to secure his
fidelity, his brother was kept as a host

Cuyler is spoken of as a half-witted
fellow, but he was evidently much more
of a rogue than a fool, as was proved by
the cunning with which his mission was
accomplished. He was, however, greatly
aided by some Indian confederates, one
of whom suggested that he should shoot
bullets through his coat, in order that his
story might appear more probable to the
enemy. One or two Indian accomplices
also agreed to follow Cuyler, and sub
stantiate his reports of the strength of
the Americans.

Cuyler accordingly presented himself
among the Indians before Fort Schuyler,
telling them how he had barely escaped
(of which his riddled coat was indubitable
proof) from the bullets of the enemy, who



pursued him and were advancing in vast
numbers. The savages listened unsuspi
ciously, and asked with alarm, * How ma
ny are coining?" " A thousand !" he had
seen in one body, answered Cuyler, and
"a thousand in another," and he did not
know " how many more," but, looking up
into the surrounding trees, he declared
that he believed " they were as numer
ous as the leaves." Soon came in one of
Cuylcr s Indian confederates, about whom
his fellow-savages pressed as eager listen
ers ; and receiving from his lips a confir
mation of Cuyler s story of the approach
of the Americans, and still more extraor
dinary accounts of their force, they be
came greatly alarmed.

Colonel St. Leger was soon conscious
of the agitation among his Indians, cre
ated by these reports. The chiefs hurried
to him, and, confronting him angrily, thus
addressed him : " You mean to sacrifice
us ! When we marched down, you told
us there would be no fighting for u*s In
dians ; we might go home, and smoke our
pipes ; whereas numbers of our warriors
have been killed !" St. Leger strove to
allay their fears and anger, promising to
lead them on himself against the enemy,
and cover them with a van of three hun
dred of his best troops. They appeared
quieted for the time, and agreed to go
out the next morning to choose the prop
er ground for a field of battle.

St. Leger went out accordingly early
on the following day with his Indian war
riors, and, having chosen his ground, drew
up his force. Soon, however, there came
an Indian, a second confederate of the
wily Yan Yost Cuyler, with the report

that the enemy were advancing with two
thousand men ; and immediately he was
followed by a third dusky fellow, who de
clared that all Burgoyne s army had been
cut to pieces, and that General Arnold
was pushing forward by rapid and forced
marches with three thousand men ! The
savages now became so pnnic-stricken,
that two hundred decamped immediately,
and the rest threatened to follow. St.
Leger called Sir John Johnson to his aid
in this emergency, but even his undoubt
ed influence over the Indians proved on
this occasion of no avail.

The savages persisting in their deter
mination to leave St. Leger, unless he
should retreat, he was forced to comply.
He proposed, however, to retire with de
liberation during the night, having first
sent on before him his sick, wounded, and
artillery. But the Indians were too im
patient to go, and too eager for the con
fusion of a hurried movement, to consent
to a delayed and orderly retreat. They
artfully kept up the alarm in the camp,
by causing messengers to steal away and
come in again, with rumors that the ene
my were approaching. The colonel, not
withstanding, resisted their importunities
to march, until the savages " grew furious
and abandoned ; seized upon the officers
liquor and clothes, in spite of the efforts
of their servants ; and became more for
midable," says St. Leger, " than the enemy
we had to expect." He was now forced
to retire before night, and, having called
in his advanced posts, hurried off toward

They went oft;" says Cordon, and St.
Leger was, about noon of the 22d [Au-



[PART n.

gust], in such hurry and confusion, as to
leave his bombardier asleep in the bomb-
battery. His tents, with most of the ar
tillery and stores, fell into the hands of
the garrison. Some of the Indian sa
chems, who were highly disgusted with
him, concluded to play upon him, and di
vert themselves at his expense. In the
evening the flying troops came to a clay
soil, pretty soft. St. Leger and Sir John
Johnson were in an altercation, St. Leger
reproaching Sir John about his Indians,
and Sir John blaming St. Leger for not
carrying on the siege differently.

"A couple of Indian chiefs, upon a ri
sing hill at a small distance, with light
enough to observe their situation, and
near enough to notice their wranglings,
which proceeded almost to fighting, di
rected an Indian to withdraw some con
siderable way behind them, and then to
run after them, crying out with all ima
ginable earnestness in the Indian lan
guage, Then are coming! then are coining!
and to continue it.

" St. Leger and Sir John, upon hearing
the dismal note, made off as fast as they
could, but often tumbled into the dirt.
The men pushed off in the greatest hur
ry. The Indians renewed the joke ; and
continued thus, and in like ways, till the
royalists arrived at the Oneida lake."

The garrison at Fort Schuyler were
greatly mystified by this sudden move
ment of the enemy. Colonel Gansevoort
knew the strength of the besiegers, and
how day after day they had been labori
ously proceeding with their works, appa
rently with full confidence in a success
ful issue to their operations. They had

peremptorily summoned him to surren
der ; and, although he had resolutely an
swered that he would defend the fort to
the last extremit} , there had seemingly
occurred nothing in the relations between
the besiegers and besieged to justify this
sudden retreat of the enemy. The mys
tery, however, was soon cleared up by
the arrival of the cunning Cuyler at the
fort. Fearful that his trick might be de
tected, and he meet with the punishment
which he deserved, the rogue had fled in
the night, during the confusion of St. Le-
ger s retreat, and made his way to Colo
nel Gansevoort, to whom Cuyler, himself
the principal agent, now disclosed the
ruse by which St. Leger had been forced
to raise the siege.

General Arnold did not await the re
sult of his cunning device against the
enemy nor reinforcements from Gates,
before marching. He resolved, with his
usual impetuosity, to push on to the re
lief of Gaiisevoort with the force at his
command, however small. But he had
not <>;ot far when a New- York regiment

O * >

found him, having been sent by Gates, to
whom Arnold thus wrote from the Ger
man Flats : " I leave this place this morn
ing, with twelve hundred conti-

Ang, 21.
nental troops and a handtiil ot

militia, for Fort Schuyler, still besieged
by a force equal to ours. You will hear
of my being victorious or no more. As
soon as the safety of this part of the coun
try will permit, I will fly to your assist
ance." He was still pressing forward in
his march toward the fort, when he heard
of the success of his ruse, and accordingly
determined to return and join Gates.



Washington in Perplexity. The British in Chesapeake Bay. General Howe s Object. Philadelphia. The Course and
Voyage of the British Fleet. Washington marches from Gcrmantown. The March of the Americans through Phila
delphia. Landing of General Howe. Want of Horses. Forestalled by the Patriots. Young Henry Lee. "Light
Horse Harry." General Sullivan under a Cloud. Washington determines to give Howe Battle. The Indefatigable
Commander. Chad s Fort. Order of Battle. Approach of the Enemy. Battle of the Brandywine. Vain Efforts
of Gallantry. Retreat of the Americans. The Killed and Wounded Conduct of the French Officers. Gallantry of
Lafayette and De Floury. Lafayette wounded. Sullivan again under Censure. He is recalled and retained.



WASHINGTON, after being a long
time perplexed in regard to the
movements of General Howe, and forced
to shift his encampment hither and thith
er, now to one side of the Delaware and
again to the other, finally concluded, to
gether with his officers in coun
cil assembled, that the enemy s
fleet had most probably sailed for Charles
ton. It was, however, thought expedient
not to follow Howe to the southward, but
to move the army toward the North riv
er. On the very day that Washington
was preparing to march in accordance
with this resolution, he received intelli
gence that two hundred sail of the ene
my had anchored in Chesapeake bay,
off Swan point, nearly two hundred miles
from the capes. There was now no doubt
that Philadelphia was Sir William Howe s
object, although the route he had taken,
(is Washington remarked, was " a very
strange one."

The course of the British fleet, which
had caused so much perplexing specula
tion, had been directed, not according to
any wily schemes of General Howe, but
by the caprice of the weather, and the
force of circumstances beyond his control.

The army had embarked on the 5th of
July, but was detained by a head-wind at
Sandy Hook until the 23d, and after sail
ing did not make the capes of Delaware
until the 30th. It was Howe s intention
to have sailed up the Delaware to Phila
delphia, but, receiving intelligence that
the Americans had raised prodigious im
pediments on that river, he changed his
mind and stood for the mouth of the Elk,
which opens into Chesapeake bay. He
was now so baffled by the prevalent south
erly winds of the season, that he did not
succeed in entering the Chesapeake until
this late period (the 21st of August). His
troops, both cavalry and infantry, crowded
into the holds of the transports, during
the hottest season of the year, and unpro
vided with the necessaries and comforts
for a long voyage, suffered greatly. The
soldiers were weakened by the protracted
confinement on shipboard, and the horses
became nearly useless.

Washington now changed the direction
of his march, and determined to proceed
from Germantown, where he was then en
camped, in a southerly direction along
the western bank of the Delaware, in or
der to meet and oppose the approach of




the enemy. He also sent for General Sul
livan, who was at that time on the North
river, to join him with his division. With
the view of exerting " some influence on
the minds of the disaffected there, and
those who are dupes to their artifices and
opinions," Washington marched his army
through Philadelphia.

The whole force amounted to nearly
nine thousand men, and that their march
through the city produced the impression
desired may be inferred from the account
given by Graydon, who from " the coffee-,
house corner" beheld them as they passed.
" These," he says, " though indifferently
dressed, held well- burnished arms, and
carried them like soldiers, and looked, in
short, as if they might have faced an equal
number with a reasonable prospect of suc
cess." Passing on through Philadelphia
without halting, the army continued its
march through Derby and Chester, to

Sir William Howe, in the meantime,
had landed on the banks of the Elk river,
at the head of Chesapeake bay,
and moved his troops to within
two miles of the town of Elk (Elkton), in
Maryland, where he encamped them up
on the hills. Howe had lost so many
horses during his long voyage, that he
was unable to send out those mounted
parties by which he had hoped to scour
the country, and secure supplies. The
Americans were thus enabled to frustrate
him ; and, being now provided with an
excellent cavalry-force, they succeeded
not only in securing a good portion of
the public stores deposited at the head
of the Elk, but in greatly harassing the

Aug. 25,

British advanced pickets. Young Harry
Lee, with his lii>;ht-horse, did i>reat ser-

O * O

vice in these skirmishes.

Lee was a young Virginian at this
time only twenty years of age. His name
sake, General Charles Lee, declared that
"he came forth a soldier from his mother s
womb." Washington warmly welcomed
the youth when he first offered his ser
vices, gave him the command of a com
pany of light-horse, and watched ever af
ter with fond admiration his spirited ca
reer. " Perhaps," says Irving, " there was
something beside his bold, dashing spirit,
which won him this favor. There may
have been early recollections connected
with it. Lee was the son of the lady who
first touched Washington s heart in his
schoolboy days, the one about whom he
wrote rhymes atMountVernon and Green-
way Court his lowland beauty." Lee s
gallantry, in fact, was noticed by the en
tire army, and his services as a cavalry-
officer were so remarkable, that he was
popularly known as "Light-horse Harry."
Washington took care to record the deeds
of his youthful compatriot: " Ten o clock.
This minute twenty-four British prison
ers arrived, taken yesterday by Captain
Lee of the light-horse," is a postscript to
his letter to the president of Congress,
dated Wilmington, 30th of August.

General Sullivan, in obedience to Wash
ington s orders, had joined the army with
his division. He came back, however, with
some imputations resting upon his con
duct in an unsuccessful enterprise against
Staten island. It was resolved to appoint
a court of inquiry to investigate the mat
ter, while in the meantime he was left in




full command. Sullivan was frequently
exposed to charges of ill conduct ; but, as
he always brought forward proof of his
courage and the sincerity of his patriot
ism., he never failed to reinstate himself,
if not in public opinion, at any rate in his
rank in the army.

Washington s army now amounted to
fifteen thousand men, although the effect
ive force, from sickness and other causes,
was calculated at only eleven thousand.
He had determined, however, to give the
enemy battle, though the latter were es
timated to possess the greatly superior
strength of eighteen thousand. There
were not wanting those who considered
Washington s resolution to fight under
the disadvantage of such inferior num
bers as imprudent. He believed, never
theless, that, with the choice of a good
position, he might make an effective re
sistance. Moreover, he thought that, to
retreat before General Howe, and allow

Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 68 of 126)