Copyright
Robert Tomes.

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

. (page 89 of 126)
Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 89 of 126)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


tal combat. E refuses, and H

horsewhips him. E now challenges

H ! They fight; but, quaintly ob
serves our annalist, "no blood is shed,
and not even a hair of their heads in
jured." Both, however, retire from the



ground perfectly satisfied that the breach
in their "honor" is made whole until
the next occasion for repair!

Five soldiers, condemned to death for
desertion and robbery, are led to the gal
lows in a cart, seated on coffins, and with
halters about their necks. A detachment
of troops guards the unhappy criminals,
and a large concourse of spectators gath
er in a circle about the place of execution.
While these poor wretches are awaiting
the fatal moment which is to end their
earthly existence, three of them receive a
pardon from the humane commander-in-
chief, " who," justly remarks the narrator
of these incidents, "is always tenderly
disposed to spare the lives of his soldiers."
Two of the condemned, more culpable
than the others, are obliged to submit to
their fate. One is accompanied to the
gallows by his brother. Their warm ex
pressions of affection bring tears upon the
cheeks of every beholder. They cling
together in the fondest embrace, kissing
each other, until the hangman is forced
to part them, and to perform his cruel
function.



080



BATTLES OF AMERICA.



fl AUT II.



CHAPTER LXXVII.

The Tory Plunderers in East Florida. General Robert Flowe marches against Them. Off for Georgia. Fort Tonyon
abandoned. General Howe retires to Savannah. Disappointment. The British Expedition. Colonel Campbell.
His Character. His Arrival in Georgia. He attacks and beats Howe. Howe tried and acquitted by Court-Martini.
His Fault. General Prevost on the March. He takes Sunbury. He arrives at Savannah. All Georgia for the
British. Howe recalled. General Lincoln appointed to the Command of the Americans. His Life and Character.
His Arrival in Georgia. Success of Moultrie at Port Royal. Lincoln resolves to act, General Ashe defeated bv
Campbell. Restoration of Confidence among the Tories. March of Prevost through South Carolina. Retreat of
Moultrie. Charleston aroused. Energy of Governor Rutledge. Gallant Sortie of Count Pulaski. Proposition of
the Charleston Authorities. No Politician. Lincoln advances. Prevost retires.



1778,



THE tories bad gathered in con
siderable force in East Florida late
in the autumn, whence they crossed into
Georgia, and plundered and laid waste
the country. General Robert Howe, who
was chief in command of the troops of the
southern states, now collected a force of
two thousand men (a few of whom were
continental soldiers, but the greater por
tion South-Carolina and Georgia militia),
and prepared to advance into Florida and
attack the tory depredators in their own
haunts. He was already on his march,
when he learned that the enemy, with a
body of tories and Indians, were also on
the move, to invade Georgia. General
Howe hastened to meet them ; and, on
reaching Fort Tonyon, situated on the
St. Mary s river, he found the works par
tially demolished and abandoned by the
enemy, who had retired as he advanced,
and were retreating to ward St. Augustine.
Dissension now occurred among Howe s
officers, and the climate of that region of
swamps began to sicken the men. In a
short time, disease and death had so di
minished and weakened the troops, that



hardly one half were fit for duty. The
American commander therefore resolved
upon retiring, and returned to Savannah,
where, upon his arrival, he gave such a
sorry account of his expedition as created
great disappointment.

Sir Henry Clinton, apprized of the ap
parent ascendency of the loyalists at the
South, determined to strengthen the Brit
ish influence there by a vigorous mani
festation of force. Although the larger
portion of the fleet under Admiral Byron,
who succeeded Lord Howe, had sailed for
the West Indies (after looking into Bos
ton harbor, and finding Count d Estainsj

O O

too strongly moored to be disturbed), a
considerable number of men-of-war were
still at New York. Sir Henry Clinton ac
cordingly despatched a body of about two
thousand troops for the South under the
orders of Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell,
in a squadron commanded by Commodore
Hyde Parker.

Campbell was the officer who had been
captured off Boston, and suffered so long
an imprisonment, till he was exchanged
for General Lee. He was possessed of



RKVOLDTIONAUY.] INVASION OF GEORGIA. AMERICANS DEFEATED.



GS7



Dec, 29,



great military skill, and tact in concilia
ting his enemies. No better man could
have been selected to conduct the south
ern expedition. He arrived off the coast
of Georgia near the close of the year, and,
having sailed up the Tybee for twelve
miles, debarked his troops about
three miles below Savannah, the
capital of the state. General Prevost, who
was in command of the British force in
Florida, was ordered to co-operate with
Campbell by marching into Georgia from
the south.

Major-General Howe, who had just re
turned from his unfortunate expedition
against the tory and Indian marauders of
East Florida, was posted with one thou
sand five hundred men within half a mile
of Savannah. His ground had been well
selected. Parallel to and in advance of
his front was a lagoon, over which the
main road to Savannah passed by means
of a bridge, but which the American com
mander destroyed, in order to prevent
the advance of the British from the town.
His right flank was covered by a morass,
mostly overgrown with a thick wood, with
here and there a house, however, where
some riflemen were posted. His left was
protected by the swamps of the Savannah
river, which, in order further to strength
en his position, he had connected with the
morass on his rit-ht by db inno; a trench

o J oO O

along his front. The town and works of
Savannah covered his rear. Howe, con
fident in the strength of his ground, calm
ly awaited the approach of the enemy.

As the British van came up, a skirmish
took place, but with little result, beyond
the loss of a few men and a brave Eng



lish officer. Lieutenant- Colonel Camp
bell had pushed forward with the first
division of his troops, and was reconnoi
tring Howe s position, when a negro pre
sented himself, who undertook to point
out a by-path that led through the swamp
to the American rear. Campbell gladly
availed himself of the negro s information
and guidance, and instantly made them
available in action.

Sir James Baird was detached with the
light-infantry and the corps of New-York
loyalists, to take the path to the American
rear disclosed by the negro ; while Camp
bell himself remained in front, arranging
his line and preparing for action. He in
tentionally delayed his attack until a fire
in the American rear gave proof that Sir
James had accomplished his object. The
first gun was a signal for general assault.
Campbell pushed on promptly in front,
while Baird pressed in toward the Ameri
can rear.

General Howe s troops, thus surround
ed, were broken and driven in confusion
from their ground. The defeat was in
stantaneous and decisive. Never was a
victory of such magnitude so completely
gained with so little loss, the British hav
ing but seven killed and nineteen wound
ed.* The Americans were hotly pursued
through Savannah, and Howe was only
able to save a small remnant of his force
by fleeing up the river and escaping into
South Carolina. He left behind him five
hundred and fifty men either dead, wound
ed, or prisoners, together with all his ar
tillery and baggage.

General Howe was subsequently tried

* Lee s Soutltern Wur.



088



BATTLES OF AMERICA.



by court-martial, but acquitted. What
ever may have been his skill, however, in
the choice of his ground, and his gallantry
in awaiting the attack of a superior ene
my, he certainly was amenable to the
charge of a want of due circumspection,
in leaving the by-path which led to his
rear, open to the advance of the enemy.
It could hardly have been from ignorance
f or " how happens it," as the historian
asks, " that he who had been in command
in that country for many months, should
not have discovered the by-way passing to
his rear, when Lieutenant-Colonel Camp
bell contrived to discover it in a few
hours ?"*

Brigadier-General Prevost was equally
effective in accomplishing his part of the
enterprise. Early in January, he
rapidly marched northward and en
tered Georgia. Immediately investing
Sunbury, below Savannah, he compelled
it to surrender ; and, having left a garri
son in the fort, proceeded to the latter
town without opposition. Being superior
in rank, Prevost assumed the chief com
mand of all the royal forces at the South,
and detached his subordinate against Au
gusta. Campbell got possession of the
town without striking a blow. In the
course of a short month, the whole state
of Georgia was restored to the authority
of the British crown. Nor was this result
due more to the strength of the enemv s

o /

arms than to the conciliatory tact of the
British generals. Both Campbell and Pre
vost spared the property and protected
the lives of the vanquished. This pru
dent policy soon produced its legitimate



* Lee.



fruits, and was rewarded with the affec
tions of the people, who now flocked to
the British standard.

After taking possession of Augusta, as
already mentioned, Lieutenant- Colonel
Hamilton was detached into the interior
of Georgia, in order to crush any remain
ing resistance, and to encourage the loy
alists to come forward and aid in com
pleting the establishment of royal author
ity in the state. Colonel Pick ens, of South
Carolina, hastily gathered his regiment
of militia, and marched into Georgia, with
the view of thwarting the progress of Brit
ish influence. Advancing toward Hamil
ton, he was on the point of giving him
battle, when, finding him too strong, sus
tained as he was by the co-operation of
the inhabitants, he retired. On his re
turn, Pickens fell in with a party of loy
alists, under Colonel Boyd. These ma
rauders were desolating the frontier of
South Carolina, on their way to join the
royal troops, and were now encountered

at Kettle creek, within two days

. , . / Feb. 14,

march 01 Augusta. A sanguina
ry struggle took place, in which the tory
leader and seventy of his followers hav
ing been slain, and an equal number ta
ken prisoners, the rest fled. This was
the only check received by the British
during their invasion of Georgia, Savan
nah being made the headquarters of their
army in the South, and retained as such
" until near the close of the contest, in
1782, when every rood of the soil, .out
side of the intrenchments around that
city, was in possession of the republicans."
The fatality which seemed to attend
the expeditions of General .Robert Howe



REVOLUTIONARY.]

created a strong prejudice against him ;
and the delegates in Congress from South
Carolina and Georgia clamorously insist
ed upon the substitution in his place of a
more experienced general. At the same
time, the states of Virginia and North
Carolina were urgently appealed to for
succor. The latter promptly responded,
and sent to the aid of her suffering sister-
state two thousand militia, under Gener
als Ashe and Rutherford. As these were,
however, unarmed, it was some time be
fore they could be of effective service. In
the meantime, Congress appointed Major-
General Lincoln, of Massachusetts, com
mander of the southern department, in
the place of General Howe, who joined
the main army, under Washington.

BENJAMIN LINCOLN led the life of a farm
er near Hingharn,in Massachusetts, his na
tive town, until he was more than forty
years of age. Patriotism made a soldier
<>{ him, and, after serving as an officer in
the militia, he was appointed in 1777 a
major-general- in the continental army.
He served with Gates at Saratoga, where
he was wounded. His great influence in
his native state was exercised much to
the advantage of the American northern
campaign, at a time when the first tri
umphs of Burgoyne had depressed the
hopes of the eastern patriots. " Upright,
mild, and amiable, he was universally re
spected and beloved ; a truly good man,
and a brave and prudent but not consum
mate soldier," is the character written of
him by Harry Lee. In person, he was
large and corpulent, and the heaviest offi- ,
cer in the army, his weight at one time j
being about three hundred pounds.
87



BENJAMIN LINCOLN.



General Lincoln reached Charleston in
January, soon after Howe s disaster at Sa
vannah, and immediately hurried
into Georgia, where he gathered the
scattered American force, and, uniting it
with the Carolina troops, stationed his
army at Purysburg, on the Savannah riv
er, about fifteen miles above the city of
Savannah. The American troops were
less than four thousand in number, and
of these only eleven hundred were regu
lar soldiers, the rest being raw militia.

The enemy s forces amounted to about
the same as the Americans ; but, as they
were distributed at different posts from
Savannah to Augusta, a distance of one
hundred miles, they were not sufficiently
concentrated to act with much effect on
the offensive. The British general, more
over, was for the present contented with
the possession of Georgia, which he strove
to retain by maintaining his long line of
defence. Lincoln, in the meanwhile, al
though he held his force compactly to
gether, did not for some time seem to be
disposed to begin operations.

General Prevost, anxious to establish
a post in South Carolina, preparatory to
the future purposes of his campaign, de
tached two hundred men by sea to take
possession of Port Royal, an island near
Charleston. They succeeded in making
good their landing, but were soon ousted
by the brave Colonel Mo ul trie, who, at the
head of a few hundred militia, drove the
British from the island, and would have
totally destroyed them had not the am
munition given out. Some well-known
Carolina names, as Barnwell, Heyward,
Rutledge, and Wilkins, were among those



690



BATTLES OF AMERICA.



IMPART II.



which became distinguished in the con
flict of that day.

General Lincoln, being strengthened
by a large accession of militia from the
Carolina*?, now resolved upon action. Fif
teen hundred men, of whom one hundred
only were regulars, were detached, under
General Ashe, of North Carolina,
to take post on the Carolina side
of the Savannah river, opposite Augusta.
Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell, who was
stationed in the town, fell back immedi
ately on the approach of the Americans,
and, crossing Brier creek, encamped at
Hudson s ferry, twenty-four miles above
Ebenezer, where General Prevost had his
headquarters.

Lincoln s object was, if possible, to cut
off the enemy. from the northern part of
Georgia; and therefore, after securing the
posts along the Savannah, on the Carolina
side, he ordered General Ashe to cross the
river, with the view of keeping the Brit
ish within the lower country, along the
seaboard, where the malaria of that un
healthy region would prove a formidable
scourge to the invaders during the ensu
ing summer heats. Ashe, in accordance
with General Lincoln s directions, posted
himself behind Brier creek, where it falls
into the Savannah, forty miles below Au
gusta. Prevost determined to dislodge
him. To conceal his object, the British
general made a feint of crossing the Sa
vannah with his main body. While Ashe
was concentrating his attention upon this
demonstration, Prevost marched with a
strong detachment for a distance of fifty
miles forded Brier creek, fifteen miles
above the American camp and fell sud-



March 3.



denly upon its rear. The hand
ful of continental troops, under
Elbert, made a brave though vain resist
ance ; but the militia were driven away
in confused flight. The British loss was
insignificant, while only four hundred and
fifty of the Americans ever rejoined the
army. Some were killed, others perished
in the morasses, and many were drowned
in attempting to cross the Savannah riv
er. By this disaster, one fourth part of
Lincoln s small force was destroyed.

The spirit of loyalty in Georgia to the
British throne, which had been tempora
rily discouraged by the advance of the
American troops, and the retirement of
Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell from Au
gusta, was now revived by the success of
Prevost. But in the neighboring state
of South Carolina:, the disasters of the
American arms in Georgia only served to
reanimate the people to more vigorous
exertions for the cause of independence.
John Kutledge, being immediately ap
pointed governor, and invested with the
powers of a dictator, imparted resolution
to all by his wise counsels, his eloquent
appeals, and firm conduct. The militia
rallied to the American standard, and Gen
eral Lincoln (whose force had now in
creased to five thousand men) was en
couraged in his efforts to hold Augusta
and the upper part of Georgia.

Having left a thousand men, under the
command of Moultrie, to defend the posts
of Purysburg and Black, swamp, Lincoln
in the latter part of A >ril moved toward
Augusta. While he -vas marching along
the right bank of the Savannah, General
Prevost, aware of the movement, took ad-



THE BRITISH APPEAR BEFORK CHARLESTON.



691



vantage of the American commander s
absence, and crossed the river to Purys-
burg with two thousand regulars, and a
considerable body of loyalists and Creek
Indians. After entering South Carolina,
and finding Purysburg abandoned, the
British general made a forced march du
ring the night, in the hope of overtaking
Mo ul trie at Black swamp. He was, how
ever, three hours too late.

Moultrie, being joined by Colonel M b ln-
tosh, who had made a timely retreat from
Purysburg, took post at Tulifinnee bridge,
leaving Lieutenant-Colonel Laurens, with
a small party of continental troops and a
body of militia, at Coosawhatchie bridge ;
which, however, after a gallant defence,
in which he was wounded, he was forced
to abandon on the advance of Prevost.
The British general s object was Charles
ton, by threatening which he hoped to
divert Lincoln, who had now recrossed
the Savannah, from his Georgia project.
The latter, however, thinking Prevost s
movement was but a feint, persevered,
and contented himself with despatching
a party of three hundred infantry, under
Colonel Harris, to reinforce Moultrie, and
aid him in opposing the inarch of the Brit
ish through South Carolina.

General Prevost, nevertheless,
proceeded on his march toward
Charleston. Moultrie continued to re treat
before him ; and, having no cavalry, he
was unable to check the British advance,
and only to embarrass it by destroying
the bridges. The march of the British
commander through South Carolina was
triumphant. General Lincoln was away
in Georgia ; Governor Rutledge, with the



May 1,



reserve militia, was in the interior ; Moul
trie, with his handful of men, was in re
treat; the inhabitants of the state were
panic-stricken, and many in their frigh
appealed to the British for protection.
Prevost might now have pushed on and
carried Charleston by a coup de main. For
some unaccountable reason, however, he
delayed for two or three days on his march,
and lost his chance.

The threatened city, in the meantime,
was aroused from the lethargy of despair
to the activity of hope. The lieutenant-
governor and the council made the great
est exertions to stimulate the energies of
the inhabitants. Every effort was made
to fortify the town. " Masters and ser
vants, boys and girls," says Lee, a mixed
in the honorable work of self-defence."
All the houses in the suburbs were burnt.
Intrenchments and abattis of trees were
extended from Ashley to Cooper rivers,
and cannon mounted across the whole ex
tent of Charleston neck. The militia of
the neighborhood thronged in at the call
of the lieutenant-governor.

General Moultrie s retreating troops at
length arrived. Governor Rutledge and
the militia, with a reinforcement of con
tinental troops, followed, having hurried
forward by forced marches. On the 10th
of May, all were in the town.

It was not until the next day that nine
hundred of the British troops crossed the

Ashley river, and appeared be-

. . May lit

fore the town. Hie mam body,

with the baggage, were left on the other
side. The spirited Pulaski, with his le
gion of light-horse, arrived to aid in the
rescue of Charleston on the very day on



692



BATTLES OF AMERICA



[PAKT II.



which the British presented themselves.
He strove to make himself useful on the
moment. The English had hardly arrived
two hours, when the gallant Pole led a
body of horse and some infantry beyond
the lines, and, having stationed the latter
in a valley, behind a small breastwork,
endeavored to draw the enemy into an
ambuscade. Advancing at the head of a
troop of horse, Pulaski provoked an en
gagement with the British cavalry, and
then retreated to the infantry. The lat
ter, however, in their eagerness to engage,
had left their ambush, and thus thwarted
the design.

A struggle ensued, in which the Brit
ish, with their superior numbers, had the
advantage. Count Pulaski, by personal
activity and bravery, did all in his power
to compensate for the imprudence of his
men, but was finally obliged to retreat
within the lines.

That the town might not be assaulted
by surprise during the night, tar-barrels
were lighted up in front of the works.
This precaution gave rise to an accident
which was greatly lamented in South Car
olina, as it deprived the state of one of
its most devoted patriots. Governor Rut-
ledge, having discovered a breach in the
abattis, sent Major Benjamin Huger, at the
head of a small party, to repair it. The.
garrison, seeing by the light of the tar-
barrels some men at the works, and not
being aware of their purpose, took them
for enemies, and fired upon them, killing
Huger and twelve of his men.

On the following day a council was
held, when, as there was little



Nay 12,



trust to be put in the military



conduct of the ohree thousand three hun
dred troops which defended the city, they
being chiefly raw militia; and as, although
Lincoln was now marching to their assist
ance, the time of his arrival was uncertain,
it was determined by a majority of the
civil (though not of the military) officers
to make a proposition to the British gen
eral.

The proposition was as follows : " That
South Carolina will remain in a state of
neutrality till the close of the war, and
then follow the fate of its neighbors, on
condition that the royal army will with
draw."* The British commander bluntly
rejected this offer, declaring that he was
no politician, and demanded that, as the
garrison were in arms, they should sur
render as prisoners-of-war. This was an
swered by an absolute refusal.

* "To gain time," says Simms, "was of the utmost con-
;quence. A day was consumed in tendering and returning
/jgs. Prevost was deluded. The better to beguile him, a
urge hope was held out as a lure to expectation. The com
missioners were instructed to propose the neutrality of South
Carolina during the war, and that the future of the state
should be determined by the event of the war.

"It has been assumed, by certain writers, that this offer
was made in good faith ; aruHt was the policy of Rutlcdge
that it should appear so. There were hundreds of loyalists
in the city who found means to communicate by night with
the enemy. It was necessary that people and army should
equally believe that the governor and his council were in
earnest, in order that Prevost should believe it also. Mean
time, the end was gained.

"Prevost discovered, after awhile, that the negotiations
did not include the army ; that, even if the city were surren
dered, the troops in it might all cross to the east side of the
Cooper, and escape ; and that he should only possess the
shell of the oyster. He demanded lo treat with the military
commandant, who was Moultrie. When Rutledge referred
the matter finally to him, he exclaimed, I will save the
city ! and his exclamation excited the people to enthusiasm.
They had heard of the negotiations. They were roused to
mutiny, people and army ; and, had the governor and coun
cil persisted, which we have no reason to suppose that they
designed to do, they would have been torn in pieces." Hin-
lory of South Carolina, p. 233.



REVOLUTIONARY.] PREVOST RETREATS. WESTERN" FORTS CAPTURED.



693



Provost now prepared for an assault;
but, having for some days hesitated to



Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 89 of 126)