Robert Tomes.

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

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clear, began to fire upon both friend and
foe, her shots telling more severely upon
the Richard than upon the Serapis. Fifty
voices from the former at once hailed her,
to tell her captain that he was firing up
on the wrong; vessel, and the usual niirht-

O c^

signal of three lanterns was shown on the
off side, while Jones ordered Landais to
lay his ship aboard the enemy. He was
asked if he understood the order, and he
declared that he did. Landais then hauled
off to some distance, but soon after drew
closer, and began his fire again, pouring
his broadsides indiscriminately into both
vessels. Ten or twelve of the Richard s
men on the forecastle fell ; and an officer
of the name of Caswell, who was killed,
complained during the last moments of
his life, with a bitterness which added to
the agony of death, that he died by the
hands of his friends.

The Alliance did great damage to the

o O

Richard. Her men became discouraged,
and, leaving their guns, declared that the
Englishmen on board the former had got
possession of the ship. The Richard s tops
were cut up, and her hull so damaged by
the fire of the Alliance, and the water
came in so freely through the shot-holes,
that she began to settle. There was now
a panic on board among the crew. A ru
mor circulated between- decks that the
commodore and all his principal officers
were slain, that the gunners were now in
command, and that the ship had four or
five feet of water in her hold. The sail-




ors accordingly delegated the gunner, the
carpenter, and the master-at-arms, to go
on deck and beg quarter of the enemy.
The English prisoners belonging to the
prizes which had been taken, who num
bered about one hundred, were let loose
in the meantime, to save their lives ; and
one of them crept from the port of the
Richard into that of the Serapis, and in
formed the British commander that in a
few minutes all would be over with his

The gunner, in the meantime, reached
the main-deck, followed by his associate
delegates, and bawling out aloud, " Quar
ter, quarter, for God s sake quarter ! our
ship is sinking !" they got upon the ship s
poop, in order to haul down the colors.
The ensign and ensign-staff, however, had
long since been shot away, and the three
accordingly proceeded to the quarter-deck
and began to haul at the pendant, still
crying, "Quarter!" "What rascals are
those ? Shoot them kill them!" fiercely
shouted Jones, who had now for the first
time caught si<>-ht of the fellows, as he had


been away for a moment on the forecas
tle. The carpenter and the master-at-arms
no sooner heard that terrible voice, than
they skulked below, where the gunner
was attempting to follow them, when the
commodore hurled a pistol at his head,
which knocked him down at the foot of
the gangway, where he lay senseless un
til the end of the battle/ 5

Captain Pearson, having heard the cry
for quarter, and listened to the story of
the English prisoner, now hailed his an
tagonist, crying, "Why don t you haul

* An eye-witness. Analeetie Magazine.

down your pendant ?" The ensign, as we
have seen, had already been shot away.
"Haul down our pendant?" cried Jones.
"Ay, ay ! ive tt do that when we can fight no
longer : we are tvaiting for yours to come down

The conflict was now renewed, with
greater vigor than ever, but was soon sus
pended by the Richard taking fire. The
ship had already been several times in
flames, which had, how r ever, been easily
quenched by the tub of water in the fore-
top. The tub, nevertheless, was emptied
again and again without effect, when at
last the crew, by pulling off their coats
and jackets, and first smothering the fire,
succeeded in putting it out. The English
captain now hailed again, to ask if Jones
demanded quarter ; and, mistaking thu
answer, which was in the negative, he o>
dered his men to take possession of the
prize. He soon found out his mistake,
however; for when some of his crew got
on the gunwale of the Richard, they were
met by a gang of boarders with their
pikes, and forced to retreat in haste to
their own ship. The American top-men
now drove the crew of the Serapis (who
had been ordered on deck) down below
again, where they resumed their position
at the lower guns, and continued their
fire through and through the Richard s

All fighting, however, soon ceased, as
both ships were on fire, and their crews
were busy in extinguishing the flames;
while many of the men on board the Rich
ard were kept constantly at the pumps,
to prevent her sinking. The Serapis had
been on fire twelve times duriny; the ac-



[TAUT 11.

tion,and her antagonist may be said never
to have ceased burning during the whole

time. It was past midnight, and
senti 9 3.

about three and a half hours

since the first gun had been fired, when
Captain Pearson at last determined to
strike to Jones. None of the crew could
be persuaded to mount the quarter-deck
for the purpose, so fearful were they of
a shot from the Richard s top-men, and
the British commander was obliged to
haul down the flag of the Serapis with his
own hands.

As soon as it was known that the col
ors of the English had been lowered, Mr.
Dale, the first-lieutenant, got upon the
gunwale of the Richard, and, laying hold
of her main-brace pendant, he swung him
self on board the Serapis. On her quar
ter-deck he found Captain Pearson, almost
alone, where he had remained through
out nearly the whole action. While Mr.
Dale was speaking to him, the first-lieu
tenant of the Serapis came up from be
low, to inquire if the Richard had struck,
as her fire had ceased. He was, however,
informed that it was his own ship which
was in that predicament ; when he pro
posed to go below, and stop the firing.
But Dale would not consent ; and the en
emy s guns did not cease till the British
captain and his lieutenant had reached
the quarter-deck of the Richard, and sur-

Sept, 24.

rendered their swords into the hands of
Paul Jones.*

The Richard, having been so damaged
in the action, and being still on fire, it
was found necessary to abandon
her the next day, and soon after
she went down, head foremost. The Sera-
pis had suffered much less in her hull, but
her mainmast had been so riddled with
balls that it fell, bringing down with it
the mizzen-topmast.

Commodore Jones, having; first hoisted

? O

his flag on board the captured ship, now
sailed with the remains of his squadron
and his prize to the coast of Holland,
where he put into the Texel, for repairs.
The loss of lives on both- sides seems
to have been about equal, and amounted
to nearly one half of all en^ao-ed. The

/ o o

conflict had lasted nearly four hours, and,
sanguinary as it had been, it would have
proved still more so, and far less protract
ed, had it not been for the fact that the
crew of the Serapis were fighting below,
while the crew of the Richard were fight
ing above.

* "It is with <^reat reluctance that I am obliged to resign
my sword to a man with a halter about his neck," are the
apocryphal words attributed to the British commander on
this occasion, to which Jones is said to have answered chiv
alrously, " Sir, you have fought like a hero, and I do not
doubt but that your sovereign will reward you handsomely."
Pearson was afterward rewarded with the title of baronet,
when Jones is again said to have remarked, " The next time
I fall in with him, I 11 make a lord of him ! ;




Henry Lee s Attack on Paulas Hook. Its Success. A Massachusetts Enterprise. Great Enthusiasm. Extensive
Preparations. Military and Naval Forces. Parallels and Approaches. An Obstinate Enemy. Massachusetts gives
up Penobscot Buy in Despair. The Fate of the Massachusetts Fleet. The South. The French Fleet. Its Arrival
off the Coast of Georgia. The British taken by Surprise. Captures. Flight. Cuunt d Estaing in Haste. Too po
lite and self-confident. General Prevost fortifies Savannah. The Spirited Maitland. Prevost will defend Himself to
the Last Extremity. The Siege begun. Description of Savannah and its Fortifications. Impatience of D Estaing.
The Assault. The Struggle. Death of Count Pulaski. Defeat of the AUies. The Loss. Count d Estaing sails
away. End of the Southern Campaign of 1779. A Clever Ruse. Valueless Victories.


THE gallant Major Henry Lee
was always eager for action ; and,
as there was little prospect of a general
campaign, he took care to find out a
sphere for the exercise of his own super
fluous energies. He was now stationed
with his light-troops, as an outpost, on
the New-Jersey side of the Hudson, a
short distance behind Hoboken. Here
he was constantly on the alert, keeping
watch over the movements of the enemy,
and, when occasion offered, pouncing up
on their foraging-par.ties. Near his post
was Paulus Hook (now Jersey City), a
long and low peninsula, stretching into
the Hudson river, and joined to the main
land by a marsh. The British had forti
fied the position strongly, and occupied it
with a garrison of several hundred men,
under the command of Major 1 Sutherland.
The works were formidable, consisting of


two redoubts, mounted with heavy can
non, enclosed within breastworks, abattis,
and trenches. A deep ditch was dug
across the narrow marsh which separated
the hook from the mainland, and a draw
bridge, protected by a barred gate, thrown

While keeping his watchful eye .,n the
place, Lee had noticed the negligence of
the garrison, who, trusting to the strength

* / O O

of their works, became heedless cf the
usual precautions. The major therefore
determined, if possible, to take the hook
by surprise. Washington, on being con
sulted, at first considered the enterprise
too hazardous; but afterward, upon con
ferring with Lee personally on the sub
ject, he gave his approval. . He declared,
however, that if the post could not be
taken in an instant, by surprise, the at
tempt must not be made.

Thus fortified by the approbation of
the commander-in-chief, Major Lee start
ed with three hundred infantry
soldiers and a troop of his own
dismounted dragoons, to execute his haz
ardous enterprise. To deceive those ir?.
the country who were friendly to the en
emy, Lee took care to have it rumored
that he was going out merely to forage,
and took a long and circuitous route.

His march through the country excited
no suspicion, as these foraging-excursions
were of c very-day occurrence. On am-

/ */

ving at the New bridge, on the Hackei.-

Aiig. 18.




sack river, Lee halted his party till Lord
Stirling should come up with his five hun
dred men, who were to remain there as
a reserve, in case their aid should be re
quired. When the night was sufficiently
advanced, Lee pushed forward through
the rugged country between the Hack-
ensack and the Hudson. Having crossed
Harsimus creek, be passed over the draw
bridge, and through the barred gate, into
the works, without exciting the least sus
picion. A party of the enemy was fortu
nately out foraging, and the Americans
weie thought by the careless guards to
be their GWL countrymen, and were per
mitted to enter without question.

Major Lee s purpose was effected al- |
most without a blow. Major Sutherland
and some Hessians, however, at the last
moment, succeeded in escaping into a
blockhouse, after Lee had secured a hun
dred and fifty-nine prisoners, and thence
began ai. irregular (ire, by which two of
j.Qe s party were killed and three wound
ed. There was no time to dislodge them,
as the alarm had now extended to the
English men-of-war in the North river,
and would soon rench the British head
quarters opposite, in New York ; while,
moreover, Lee had been strictly enjoined
by Washington not to risk the lives of his
men by remaining to destroy barracks or
artillery. In the assault the British had
thirty killed. The American commander
made good his retreat, under the cover
of General Lord Stirling, and had the sat
isfaction of being welcomed back to camp
with the applause of every officer and sol
dier for his triumphant gallantry. Med-
a?e had been awarded by Congress to Gen

eral Wayne and the leaders of the two
divisions in the storming of Stony Point ;
and the same honor was now conferred
upon Major Lee for his brave exploit at
Paul us Hook.

A more pretentious but less successful
enterprise was got up in Massachusetts.
Colonel M Lean, in command of the- Brit
ish troops in Nova Scotia, had gone with
nearly seven hundred men and three
sloops-of-war to establish a post on Penob-
scot bay, in order to obtain timber from
the forests of Maine for the shipyards at
Halifax, and to check the incursions of
the New-Englanders. M-Lean selected
some high ground on a peninsula, with a
small bay toward the sea, in which the
three sloops-of-war now rode at anchor,
and a steep ascent on the land-side. Here
he commenced the construction of a fort,
which was still incomplete when he re
ceived intelligence of the setting out of
a large force to attack him.

Massachusetts was greatly provoked
by this invasion of its territory, and the
state determined to make a vigorous ef
fort to defend itself and vindicate its in
sulted honor. Confident in its own re
sources, the government at Boston proud
ly disdained all aid, and neither consulted
Washington at West Point nor General
Gates at Providence, nor asked them for
troops. The enterprise was got up on a
scale that was supposed to insure success,
and Massachusetts was resolved to allow
none other to share in the expected tri

Great military enthusiasm prevailed on
the occasion, and some three thousand en
terprising militiamen were enrolled under



the standard of Lovell, who was the gen
eral appointed to the command. The na
val preparations were no less spirited and
extensive.. An embargo was laid by the
general court of Massachusetts, for forty

O v

days, upon all shipping, in order that a
full supply of seamen might more readily
be obtained. Captain Saltonstall, the state
commodore, now gathered under his broad
pendant a formidable fleet of no less than
twenty armed vessels, brigan tines and pri
vateers, in addition to twenty-four trans
ports for the conveyance of the troops.

The fleet, being wind-bound for some
time in Nantasket roads, at length made

its appearance off the Penobscot.
Julv ^5t

Finding the entrance to the lit
tle bay, below the enemy s fort, barred
by the three British sloops-of-war, which
were anchored across its mouth, the Amer
icans sought another anchorage and more
convenient landing-place. After a delay
of three days, the troops finally debarked.
Having climbed up the steep approach
from the land, and dragged their heavy
camion after them, they took their posi
tion within seven hundred and fifty yards,
and in regular form began to lay siege to
the fort.

While General Lovell was proceeding,
according to the most approved military
art, with his parallels and approaches, the
British colonel improved the opportunity
of strengthening his incomplete works,
and finally became so confident in his
means of resistance, that, after refusing
the summons to surrender, he fearlessly
scorned all threats of assault.

Lovell continued the protracted siege,
with an occasional attempt at co-opera-

Aug. 14.

tion on the part of Commodore Salton-
sta,ll, who made several not very vigorous
efforts to enter the harbor, which were,
however, always defeated by the British
sloops-of-war on guard at its entrance.
The militia now began to grow weary of
the long trial of their undisciplined pa
tience ; and Lovell was fain to send to
General Gates, at Providence, for a rein
forcement of regular troops, which were
despatched, but did not arrive in time.

After a brisk but ineffectual cannona
ding (which was returned with spirit from
the fort) had continued day after day for
a fortnight, the English colonel
vras surprised one morning to
discover that his enemies had, during the
previous night, suddenly abandoned their
camp-works and re-embarked.

The cause was soon made apparent by
the appearance off the bay of Admiral Sir
George Collier, with a British squadron
of five formidable men-of-war. While Col
lier lay at Sandy Hook, he got wind of
the Massachusetts expedition, from a com
municative paragraph in a Boston news
paper, and made all haste to the rescue
of the Penobscot fort. The American ves
sels, under Commodore Saltonstall, pre
sented a threatening aspect on the arri
val of Sir George. They were " drawn
up seemingly with the view of disputing
the passage. Their resolution, however,
soon failed, and an ignominious flight took
place."* Two of the largest armed ves
sels strove to run out of the bay and get
to sea, but were intercepted, when one
was taken, and the other, being driven on
shore, was blown up by her own crew.

* Gordon.



[PART n.

The rest made for the mouth of the Pe-
nobscot river, Avhere the sailors and sol
diers got ashore and made their escape
by land, abandoning their vessels to the
enemy. The fugitives had a weary jour
ney before them, being forced to make
their way to their homes for a hundred
miles through the forest-wilderness of
Maine and New Hampshire, and" did not
reach Boston until the latter part of Sep
tember. Many perished from hunger and
fatigue, in the attempt. Neither general
nor commodore escaped the severe re
bukes of their state and fellow-citizens for
the ignominious result of the great Mas
sachusetts expedition against the enemy
at Penobscot.

Let us now record events at the South,
where the British seemed disposed to car
ry on the war. The French fleet, after
being thoroughly refitted at Boston, had
sailed for the West Indies, where Count
d Estaing achieved some small triumphs.
As the hurricane-months were approach
ing, and an intermission of active opera
tions in the tropical seas must occur, the
Americans in the southern states deter
mined to invoke the aid of the French
admiral. Governor Rutledge, of South
Carolina, and General Lincoln, in com
mand at Charleston, with the concurrence
of the French consul in that city, wrote
to D Estaing an earnest appeal, which was
immediately responded to by his setting
sail with his whole fleet for the American

The French admiral, with, his formida
ble fleet of twenty-four ships-of-the-line,
fourteen frigates, and a flock of small craft,
and having on board a land-force of six

thousand men, appeared so sud-

Sept, 1,

denly off the coast of Georgia,
that the British were completely taken
by surprise. The Experiment, of fifty guns,
under the command of Sir James Wallace,
together with three frigates, were at once
captured, and the rest of the squadron on
that station was only saved by running
up the Savannah river. General Prevost,
who held possession of the town with a
small British force, was in great anxiety
about its safety, and immediately ordered
Lieutenant-Colonel Conger, at Sunbury,
stationed at Beaufort, in South Carolina,
with a considerable number of troops, to
march with all despatch to his aid.

Count d Estaing, in the meantime, had
met Governor Rutledge and General Lin
coln at Charleston, and with them formed
a plan for wresting Savannah from the
British. While the admiral sailed to join
his fleet, Lincoln pushed on by land ; and
Rutledge promptly seconded the objects
of both, by obtaining at Charleston boats
of light draught, to aid the former in
landing his troops, and enrolling the mi
litia of South Carolina, and marching him
self at their head to reinforce the latter.

The admiral was the first to arrive, and,
immediately after landing his troops at
Beaulieu, he marched toward Savannah,

and summoned the British gar-

, . /7 , Sept, 13.

nson to surrender to the arms of

the king of France. Lincoln and Rutledge
soon followed, and heard with no little
vexation of the count s hasty proceed
ings, and his eagerness to monopolize for
his own sovereign the expected honors.
General Lincoln, reminding his French


ally that the United States claimed some
consideration in the affair, the count was
prevailed on, after a little angry alterca
tion, so far to modify his future action as
to acknowledge the Americans as a party
concerned. The combined forces thence
forth acted with amiable co-operation.

The British general, on receiving the
summons of D Estaing to surrender, asked
for a delay of twenty-four hours, to con
sider the demand. This the courteous
and imprudently self-confident French
man granted. Prevost had been joined
by Conger from Sunbury, but was still
waiting with anxiety for the accession of
Maitland s veteran troops from Beaufort.
Having gained time by this ruse, the Brit
ish general confidently relied upon the
arrival of the spirited Maitland, and in the
meantime continued his preparations for
defence. He had every soldier, citizen,
and negro, whom he could muster, busy
at the works, in which he was greatly aid
ed by Captain Henry, in command of the
small naval force which had fled up the
river on the approach of the French fleet.
The guns from most of the vessels were
landed and mounted on the batteries, and
the sailors and marines sent ashore to
work them and reinforce the garrison.
One brig, however, was allowed to retain
her guns, and was anchored above Sa
vannah, so as to cover the right of the
British lines. Several vessels were sunk
across the channel below the town, in or
der to prevent the nearer approach of the
French fleet; and others in like manner
above, where a boom was thrown across
the river, to hinder all attempts by water
in that direction.

The welcome Maitland arrived in time.
Great were the obstacles which he had to
encounter. Being cut off by the French
fleet from the customary route to Savan
nah, he w r as obliged to take one which led
him over land and water, through deep
creeks and marshes, where his soldiers
were forced to drag their boats. With
all these difficulties, Maitland, though ill
with a bilious fever, made his way to the
Savannah river, where, embark ing in boats
above the anchorage, he entered the towr
before the expiration of the truce. His
arrival " diffused universal joy, not only
because he added one third to the number
of the garrison, and that too in troops of
the best quality, but because he added
himself, always the source of comfort
where danger reigned."*

His purpose gained by the truce, the
British general now confidently answered
D Estaing s summons by declaring that
he should defend himself to the last ex
tremity. The allies, having coni-

/., . Sept, 23,

pleted their preparations, broke

ground for the siege, and pushed their
approaches with the greatest diligence,
so that in twelve days fifty-three pieces
of battering-cannon and fourteen mortars
were mounted. They now opened their
fire, and with such terrible effect
upon the town, that General Pre
vost sent out a flag, with the request that
the aged, the women, and the children,
might be allowed to remove to a place
of safety. This was, however, refused by
the confederate commanders, probably on
the ground that their absence would pro-

* Henry Lee, who is always as candid as an historian ai
lie was brave as a soldier.

Oct, 4,




tract the resistance of the garrison ; al
though, accord ic g to Lee, the request was
sustained by the claims of humanity, and
if granted would have tended in no way
to the benefit of the besieged or the in
jury of the besiegers.

The British force was comparatively
small, amounting to less than three thou
sand men, even including Maitland s eight
hundred veterans. When D Estaing had
first sent in his summons, Prevost had
hardly a dozen guns mounted ; but, by j
immense exertions, he had succeeded, du
ring the protracted operations of the be
siegers, in mounting no less than a hun
dred cannon of all kinds and calibres.
The British engineer, MoncriefF, was a,
marvel of energy, and full of resource.
He with great ingenuity strengthened all
the weak parts of the town with impale
ments, traverses, abattis, and redoubts, and
in their construction availed himself free

Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 92 of 126)