Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

forces came to an engagement, in which the Amer. icans suffered a defeat. The loss of the battle was .. ascribed, with reason, to the unskilfulness of the militia. Among these the route and confusion was absolute and irretrievable, and Gates had the singular fortune of conducting the most prosperous and the most disastrous of the military enterprises, in this war.

Here was a dismal reverse in the life of Gates. His prosperous scale sunk at Camden as fast as it had mounted at Saratoga. There had been a difference of opinion as to the best road to the theatre of action, and the hardships and diseases which one party had foretold would infest the road which he took, actually exceeded what was menaced. A battle lost against half the number, in circumstances where the vanquished army was taken, in some degree, by surprise, would not fail to suggest suspicions as to the caution or discernment of the general.

Gates continned in command till October the 5th, in the same year, about fifty days after the disaster at Camden. In this interval he had been busily employed in repairing the consequences of that defeat, and was now reposing for the winter. He was, on that day, however, displaced, and subjected to the inquiry of a special court. The in- .. quiry was a tedious one, but terminated finally in the acquittal of the general. He was reinstated in his military command in the year 1782. In the meantime, however, the great scenes of the southern war, especially the capture of Cornwallis, had past. Little rooin was afforded to a new general. to gather either laurels or henbane. A particular detail of those transactions in which he was concerned, exceeds the limits prescribed to this hasty . sketch. In like manner, we are unable to digest that voluminous mass of letters, evidences, and

documents by which the resolution of congress, in favour of bis conduct at Camden, was dictated.

The capture of Cornwallis which produced such grand and immediate consequences, swallowed up the memory of all former exploits, and whatever sentence the impartial historian may pronounce on the comparative importance of the capture of Burgoyne, and the surrender of Cornwallis, to the national welfare, or to the merit of the leaders, the people of that time could not hearken to any such parallel. They swam in joy and exultation, and the hero of York-town was alike with congress and with the people the only saviour of his country.

When the revolution was completed, Gates retired to his plantation in Virginia. We are unacquainted with the particulars of his domestic economy; but have reason to infer that it was eminently mild and liberal, since seven years afterwards, when he took up his final residence in New York, he gave freedom to his slaves. Instead of turning them to the highest profit, he made provision for the old and infirm, while several of them testified their attachment to him by remaining in his family. In the characteristic virtue of planters, hospitality, Gates had no competitor, and his reputation may well be supposed to put that virtue to a hard test. He purchased, in the neighbourhood of New York, a spacious house, with valuable ground, for the life of himself and his wife, and here, with few exceptions, he remained for the rest of his life.

No wonder that the military leaders in the revolution, should aspire to the enjoyment of its civil honours afterwards. The war was too short to create a race of mere soldiers. The merchants and lawyers who entered the army, became merchants and lawyers again, and had lost none of their primitive qualifications for administering the civil governinent. Gates, however, was a singuTar example among the officers of high rank. His original profession was a soldier, and disabled him from acquiring the capacity suitable to the mere magistrate and senator. During twenty-three years, he was only for a short time in a public body. In the year 1800, he was elected to the New York legislature, in consequence of a critical · balance of the parties in that state, and withdrew

again into private life, as soon as the purpose for which he was elected was gained.

General Gates was a whig in England and a republican in America. His political opinions did not separate him from many respectable citizens, whose views differed widely from his own.

He had a handsome person, tending to corpulence, in the middle of life; remarkably courteous to all; and carrying good humour sometimes beyond the limits of dignity. He is said to have received a classical education, and not to have entirely neglected that advantage in after life. To science, literature, or erudition, however, he made no pretensions; but gave indisputable marks of a .. social, amiable and benevolent disposition.

He died, without posterity, at his customary abode, near New York, on the 10th of April, 1806, after baving counted a long series of 78 years.

GREENE, NATHANIEL, a major general in. the army of the United States, and one of the most distinguished officers in the revolutionary war, was born in the town of Warwick, in Rhode Island, in the year 1741. His parents were Quakers. His father was a respectable anchor-smith. Being intended for the business which his father pursued, young Greene received nothing but a common English education. But, to himself, an acquisition so humble and limited, was unsatisfactory and mortifying. While he was a boy he learned the Latin language chiefly by his own industry. Having procured, in part by his own economy, a small library, he spent his evenings, and all the time ho

could redeem from business, in regular study. He read with a view to general improvement; but military history occupied a considerable share of his attention, and constituted his delight.

He embarked in his father's line of business, and in the regular pursuit of it employed a considerable portion of his time, until he was elevated, at an unusually early age, to a seat in the legislature of his native colony. In this situation, the commencement of the revolutionary war found him; and, the undisguised part which he took in promoting an appeal to arms, caused him to be dismissed from the society of friends, of which he had antecedently been a member.

He began his military career as a private in a military association, of which he was the principal promoter, and which was chartered under the name of the Kentish Guards, and commanded by general James M. Varnum. But in the year 1775, Rhode-Island having raised three regiments of militia, amounting in the whole to about 1600, and officered by some of her most distinguished inhabitants, she placed them under the command of Mr. Greene, with the rank of brigadier general, who, without loss of time, conducted them to head-quarters, in the village of Cambridge..

Here, 'having, by a single act of promotion, after a noviciate of about seven months, exchanged the rank of a private, for that of a general officer, he soon distinguished himself, in his present station, and offered to others, a most salutary example. This he did in a very special manner, and, with the happiest effect, by his prompt obedience to the commands of his superiors, at a time, when that subordination, which alone can render an army efficient and powerful, was not yet established; by habits of strict and laborious attention, in the regular study of the military science; and by the excellent discipline, which he caused to be introduced into his own brigade.

General Greene's merit and abilities, as well in the council as in the field, were not long unnoticed by general Washington, who reposed in him the utmost confidence, and paid a particular deference to his advice and opinion, on all occasions of doubt and difficulty.

He was appointed major general by congress, the 26th of August, 1776. Towards the close of that year, he was at the Trenton surprise; and, at the beginning of the next, was at the battle of Princeton, two enterprises not more happily planned than judiciously and bravely executed, in both of which he highly distinguished himself, serving his noviciate under the American Fabius.

At the battle of Germantown, he commanded the left wing of the American army; and his utmost endeavours were exerted to retrieve the fortune of that day, in which his conduct met with the approbation of the commander in chief.

In March, 1778, he was appointed quarter-master-general, which office he accepted under a stipulation, that his rank in the army should not be affected by it, and that he should retain his right to command, in time of action, according to his rank and seniority. This he exercised at the battle of Monmouth, where he commanded the right wing of the army.

About the middle of the same year, an attack being planned by the Americans, in conjunction with the French fleet, on the British garrison at Newport, Rhode Island, general Sullivan was appointed to the command, under whom general Greene served. This attempt was unsuccessful; the French fleet having sailed out of harbour, to engage lord Howe's fleet, they were dispersed by a storm, and the Americans were obliged to raise the siege of Newport, in doing which, general Greene displayed a great degree of skill, in drawing off the army in safety.

« AnteriorContinuar »