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240

SURPRISE OF HAMILTON AT DETROIT. [CHAP. III.

Clarke having learnt that Hamilton had sent a large part of his force to block up the Ohio, while he remained at Vincennes, set out immediately for that post, and, after a most arduous and difficult march through lands covered with water, surprised Hamilton, who surrendered, with his garrison, prisoners of war. As he was believed to have instigated the Indians in their barbarities, he was, by way of retaliation, treated with unusual rigor. This exploit entirely broke up the schemes of the Indians on the frontier.

It had always been a favorite object in Congress to obtain the accession of Canada, either by her voluntary act, or by conquest; and this year the scheme of an invasion was revived, as it would have the co-operation of France. The plan was completely formed, and was to be carried into execution in the following year; but to Washington there seemed to be insuperable objections to it, both from the serious difficulties of the enterprise, and the dangers that would attend it, if those difficulties were overcome. His reasons finally prevailed, and the project was, not without reluctance, given up.

If the alliance with France was productive of solid advantages to the cause of independence, like all other human concerns, its benefits were not without alloy. One of the evils resulting was, that in the confidence of success which it inspired, both the States and Congress were disposed to relax in their efforts at defence, and were prevented from taking measures to keep up the army to the degree of strength required.

It is not unlikely that the sense of security that was thus produced contributed to increase the dissensions in Congress which had for some time existed, and which now manifested a force and bitterness they had never before exhibited. One of the sources of this discord was

1778.]

SILAS DEANE.

241

the case of Silas Deane, whose course in France had long given dissatisfaction to many of the members. He had been considered not only reckless in his promises to French officers of appointments in the American army beyond their just claims, which had proved a source of much embarrassment in the United States- but his own accounts of his pecuniary transactions were defective and unsatisfactory. Deane himself, moreover, publicly censured not only some of the American negotiators abroad, but also members of Congress. A letter from Mr. Laurens, when President of Congress, to Governor Hous ton, of Georgia, in like manner reflected with severity on the want of integrity and patriotism in some of the members of that body. It is not easy, at the present day, to decide how far these injurious imputations were well founded.

The British ministry, finding themselves foiled in their attempts to reduce the Northern and Middle States to subjection, determined to try their strength on the South, which seemed to be less capable of resistance; and their first efforts were directed against Georgia, the most defenceless of those States.

Lieutenant-colonel Campbell arrived in the squadron of Commodore Parker off the coast of Georgia on the twenty-third of December; and he effected, without difficulty, a landing three miles below the town of Savannah. Major-general Howe, who had the command of the American forces, attempted to dispute his further advance; but Campbell succeeded in getting a detachment in Howe's rear; and he, finding himself between two fires, made his retreat with difficulty, and after great loss. One hundred were killed, thirty-eight officers and four hundred and fifteen privates were taken, besides fortyeight pieces of cannon, twenty-three mortars, and a large VOL I. -16

242

GEORGIA OVERRUN BY THE BRITISH. [CHAP. III.

amount of military stores. The enemy lost but seven killed, and nineteen wounded.

By this victory all the lower part of the State fell into the possession of the enemy, who treated the inhabitants with great lenity and moderation. A proclamation was issued in the terms likely to serve the royal cause; and the form of the oath required to be taken by the inhabitants was published. This policy was successful, and great numbers of the inhabitants put themselves under the protection of the victors. The post of Sunbury subsequently surrendered to General Prevost. Colonel Campbell then proceeded to Augusta, where he met with no opposition; and thus the whole State of Georgia was brought under British subjection.

At the instance of the Delegates of South Carolina and Georgia, General Howe was recalled, and General Lincoln was sent to take command in the South. As soon as he heard that the enemy was in Savannah River, he marched with all his forces, including two thousand militia from North Carolina, to the defence of Georgia; but after he heard of Howe's defeat, he limited his views to the defence of South Carolina. His whole force was about three thousand six hundred; of whom only two thousand four hundred and twenty-eight were effective.

The Savannah, for one hundred miles from its mouth, flows through a low, marshy country, so as to make it difficult to be crossed; and it sometimes spreads to a breadth of from two to four miles. It thus completely separated the American and British forces.

A detachment of the British, under Major Gardiner, attempted to penetrate South Carolina by the sea-coast, and to take possession of the Island of Port Royal; but they were compelled to retreat by General Moultrie. The militia, on this occasion, exhibited both bravery and

1779.]

LINCOLN SUPERSEDES HOWE,

243

skill; and they would probably have cut off Gardiner's whole party if their ammunition had not failed them. This repulse checked the further operations of Prevost in South Carolina.

The number of loyalists in the western portions of both Carolinas and Georgia was great; and, after the success of the British in Georgia, they were invited to assemble at Augusta. Accordingly, seven hundred of them, in a body, began their march from South Carolina to Augusta; but were attacked by militia under Colonel Pickens, and defeated with great loss. Seventy were then tried as traitors, and five were hanged.

General Lincoln, preparatory to offensive operations in Georgia, which reinforcements now led him to attempt, ordered General Ashe to cross the Savannah into Georgia; but Prevost succeeded in surprising and defeating his corps. Such of them as could not escape were compelled, after a short resistance, to surrender as prisoners of war. Not more than four hundred and fifty of the fugitives could be reassembled. The British lost one officer and fifteen privates. Prevost then established civil government in Georgia.

This disastrous beginning roused the South Carolinians to redouble their efforts. They elected John Rutledge Governor, and invested him and his council with dictatorial powers.

Lincoln, strengthened by the large body of militia called into service, renewed his purpose of recovering the upper part of Georgia; but to divert him from this object, Prevost crossed the Savannah himself, and made a show of attacking Charleston. He advanced rapidly on General Moultrie, and compelled him to retreat. Meanwhile Lincoln crossed the Savannah himself, expecting to draw Prevost back to the defence of

244

REPULSE AT CHARLESTON.

[CHAP. III.

Georgia, and by this movement he did not much increase his distance from Charleston, in case that town should be attacked.

Prevost, encouraged by the feeble resistance he had yet encountered, decided on marching to Charleston, whither Lincoln, recrossing the river, also hastened. The defences of the city had all been made against an attack by sea, while those on the land side had been entirely neglected; and had Prevost marched on without delay, Charleston must have surrendered; but he having halted for some days, the city was well prepared for defence.

The proffered terms of surrender being rejected by Rutledge, Prevost, unwilling to hazard an assault, withdrew his troops first to St. James, and then to St. Johns, Islands, lying south of Charleston, and there awaited the arrival of two frigates from New York.

Lincoln at the same time encamped opposite the Island of St. Johns, which is separated by an inlet called Stono River. The British had a fortified post at the ferry over the Stono, and while they were moving from St. James Island to St. Johns, Lincoln attacked this post, but was repulsed with a loss, in killed and wounded, of 'twenty-four officers and one hundred and fifty-five privates. The loss of the British was something less. Three days afterwards, the enemy's troops were silently withdrawn, and retired into Georgia.

During these transactions, Virginia was invaded by Brigadier-general Mathews. He had two thousand men under him, and the fleet which transported them entered the Chesapeake on the ninth of May.

A regiment of artillery had been raised in that State to relieve the militia, and to defend it from the predatory incursions of the enemy; but being distributed in small

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