صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

1779.]

INVASION OF VIRGINIA.

245

divisions along the eastern frontier, and separated by wide rivers and inlets, they could not readily unite; nor if united, were they sufficient to resist the present invading force. On the tenth, the fleet entered Elizabeth River, and approaching Fort Nelson, situated on the west side of that river, it was evacuated in the night, and the garrison retreated into the Dismal Swamp. The lower part of the State, south of James River, was thus in possession of the enemy, who, fixing his quarters at Portsmouth, took possession of a large amount of stores collected at Norfolk, Gosport, and other towns, which they brought off or destroyed, and Mathews returned to New York by the last of May.

?

The western population of New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania having been greatly harassed by incursions of the Indians, assisted by the Tories who had taken refuge among them, they were clamorous for a force to act on the offensive. Congress decided to comply with their request. The force employed was to be divided into three parts: one to march up the Susquehanna, and attack a tribe of the Six Nations; another to go by the way of the Mohawk; and a third to proceed up the Alleghany River.

When this army was on the point of marching, a new difficulty presented itself. The officers of the Jersey brigade remonstrated, that unless their complaints of want of "pay and support" were immediately attended to they would disband in three days, and they requested their Legislature, in that event, to appoint other officers. General Washington, on learning these facts, addressed a letter to them of mild but earnest remonstrance, and in the most forcible way appealing both to their pride and their patriotism, he urged them to reconsider the subject, and not to bring disgrace on themselves and their country. They

246

DISCONTENTS IN THE ARMY.

[CHAP. III.

replied in most respectful language, without, however, relinquishing their purpose; but as they said they would continue with their regiment and do their duty until the Legislature had a reasonable time to appoint others, no further notice of their letter was taken. The Legislature having, in the mean time, given some attention to their complaints, they consented to withdraw their remonstrance, and continued to discharge their duties.

In communicating the facts to Congress, General Washington renewed his solicitations in behalf of the officers of the army generally. Before this expedition set out, Colonel Von Schaick, of New York, with five or six hundred men, surprised and destroyed the settlements of the Onondagas, one of the Six Nations. The great expedition was under the command of General Sullivan, who received instructions to treat the hostile tribes with severity, Congress being convinced that offensive operations would alone avail against them.

At this time the troops under Sir Henry Clinton amounted to sixteen or seventeen thousand men, exclusive of those in the South. The American army numbered rather less. In New England there were three thousand under Gates, and thirteen thousand on both sides of the Hudson. The largest division-seven thousand-was at Middlebrook, under Washington. With this force even defensive warfare was not easy.

After Forts Clinton and Montgomery were destroyed, in 1777, it was thought that West Point was a strong position, and that had been accordingly fortified. Three miles below West Point is a ferry connecting the great road that leads from the Eastern to the Middle States. The ferry is commanded on the west side by the high ground called Stony Point, and on the east side by a piece of flat land called Verplank's Point. The posses

1779.]

INCURSION INTO CONNECTICUT.

247

sion of these points was desirable to both armies. At Verplank's, Washington had erected a strong work called Fort Fayette; but the works on Stony Point were unfinished.

J

The British having approached Stony Point, the unfinished works were abandoned; and the next day a battery was ready to open on Fort Fayette. As the enemy had entire possession of the river, the post was incapable of defence, and was surrendered to the British. The works in both places were put in a strong state of defence.

Washington being thus incapable of undertaking any offensive operations to advantage, and being himself unassailable while he continued in the strong position he then occupied in the Highlands, Sir Henry Clinton was induced to make an incursion into Connecticut. About two thousand six hundred men were embarked at Frog's Neck, and they reached New Haven on the fifth of July. They took possession of the town, destroyed all the public stores they found, and thence proceeded to Fairfield. Here, however, they met with resistance from the militia, in resentment of which they reduced the village to ashes. They extended the same petty marauding to other places. But their troops were soon withdrawn, to act defensively on the Hudson.

Washington now formed the design of attempting to take Stony Point by surprise-a capture which, besides the intrinsic value of the place, would give eclat to the American arms, and reconcile the public to the defensive warfare to which he had been for some time reduced. The execution of the plan was entrusted to General Wayne. The position is one of great strength. It is surrounded by the river on three sides, and on the fourth by

248

CAPTURE OF STONY POINT.

[CHAP. III.

a marsh, over which there is a single crossing place. It was well provided with heavy ordnance, and several ships-of-war were stationed in the river before it. It had a garrison of six hundred men.

The attack was made in the night. Two columns approached it on the right and left at the same time; and a little after twelve at night, they rushed into the works at the point of the bayonet, without having discharged a gun. Nor was a single life taken after resistance ceased. Of the forlorn hope of one of the columns, led by Lieutenant Gibbon, seventeen were killed or wounded. The British lost in killed, by Wayne's account, sixty-three, and by Colonel Johnson's, only twenty. The prisoners were five hundred and forty-three. A large amount of stores was captured. The killed and wounded of the assailants were about one hundred men.

From mismanagement and misapprehension of orders, the captors did not profit by the possession of Stony Point, in time to get possession also of Verplank's Point, reinforced as it was by the British. The acquisition was, therefore, rendered of no value; and the Americans finding it could not be defended with less than fifteen hundred men, decided to evacuate it.

In July there was a successful expedition from Nova Scotia against Penobscot, in Maine; and an American flotilla, which was provided for its defence, having fled without attempting resistance, was entirely destroyed — one of them a frigate of thirty-two guns. This affair long remained a theme of reproach against those concerned in it.

As a small set-off to this success of the enemy, a British post at Paulus Hook was surprised by Major Henry Lee,

1779.] GENERAL LINCOLN AND COUNT D'ESTAING.

249

and the garrison made prisoners, with the loss of only two killed and three wounded.

Let us now revert to the affairs in the South.

General Lincoln having informed Count d'Estaing that the British ships had gone into port to repair the damages sustained in the late engagement with his fleet in the West Indies, and that a fair opportunity was presented of destroying the British army in Georgia, with the cooperation of the French fleet, the Count immediately left the West Indies, with twenty-two sail-of-the-line and eleven frigates. He had on board six thousand land forces, and arrived so unexpectedly on the coast, that a British fifty gun ship and three frigates fell into his hands. He then, in conjunction with Lincoln, planned an attack on the town of Savannah.

On the fifteenth of September, a junction took place between Lincoln's troops, amounting to one thousand, and those of the French, amounting to three thousand; and the next day they summoned the garrison to surrender. Prevost managed, by an ambiguous answer, to gain time, so that in the interval Colonel Maitland arrived with a detachment to his assistance, when d'Estaing was informed that the garrison had resolved to defend the place. The siege was then begun: but d'Estaing seeing that the cannonade had made no impression on the works, and unwilling to leave the French West Indies longer without protection, or to expose his own ships to the chance of an equinoxial storm, declared he could not protract his stay, and that they must either raise the siege, or attempt to storm the works. They decided in favor of storming, though the place must have surrendered in a few days by the regular approaches of the besiegers.

« السابقةمتابعة »