Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors]

under disadvantages from the want of cavalry and the numerous desertions which occurred among his troops. Anxious for the fate of their private property, instead of rallying for the public cause, they went off home, in alarm and consternation. Prevost delayed several days on his march, receiving encouragement from the tories, and as surances of the defenceless state of Charleston. Following

the retreating Americans in this dilatory i anner, May 11th.

he appeared before Charleston on the 11th of May.

Lincoln, in the interim, continued his route down the south side of the river, towards Savannah, believing Prevost's march to be a feint to divert him from that city. He contented himself with despatching three hundred contiRentals to Charleston, who, by a rapid march of fifty miles a day for four days, reached that place as soon as Moultrie, and before the British crossed the Ashley river. A further reinforcement of five hundred men was sent by Governor Rutledge, and the Pulaski legion was soon after added. Lincoln himself, as soon as he was convinced that the British intended seriously to attack Charleston, turned to the left, recrossed the river, and marched to the relief of the city.

On the morning of the 12th, Prevost summoned the garrison to surrender. Their numbers were about 3,300, and their chief hope was to hold out until the arrival of Lincoln. To gain time therefore was essential, and the whole of that day and the next was consumed in the exchange of flags and negotiating for terms. The garrison offered to consent to a neutrality, leaving the question of the Independence of South Carolina to be determined by final treaty between Great Britain and the United States, an offer which was refused by General Prevost. The garrison expected an immediate assault

, instead of which, on the 14th, the British

abandoned their design, recrossed the Ashley May 141b. to avoid being intercepted by Lincoln, who was rapidly approaching. The same day Lincoln reached Dorchester. The two armies remained in their encampments, watching each other's movements, until the middle of June. On the 20th, a sharp action was fought at Stono Ferry. This pass had been fortified, defended with artillery, and garrisoned by a force of six hundred men, under Colonel Maitland.

[ocr errors]

Lincoln arranged a plan of attack, which failed in part by the mismanagement of one of the divisions and the neglect of orders in another. The attacking force was about 1,200, which was beaten off, after an obstinate battle, with the loss of about three hundred killed. After this action, Prevost retired to Savannah, leaving Colonel Maitland, with part of the army, at Beaufort, on the Island of Port Royal. Lincoln and the continental forces retired to Sheldon, in the vicinity of Beaufort. The intense heat of the season prevented any further active operations by either army for several months, and in the interval earnest applications were made to D'Estaing in the West Indies to join his forces with the American for the recovery of the ground lost in the South.

This incursion of the British into Carolina was marked by more than customary wantonness of desolation; planta tions and private dwellings were ravaged and burnt, with no other object than mischief and revenge. An immense amount of property was plundered and carried away, and not less than three thousand slaves were lost to the planters. A great proportion of these outrages were committed by the tories or American loyalists.

The arrival of the French fleet with 6,000 troops, on the 1st of September, renewed the war, under pro

Sept. Ist. pitious circumstances. The Americans were sanguine of immediate success. The first events encouraged those anticipations. A British fifty gun ship, three frigates, and several transports, laden with provisions, were captured. Savannah was the immediate object of the joint armaments, and the land and sea forces were directed to concentrate at that point, to capture the army of Prevost. Lincoln broke up his camp

and marched down to the south bank of the river, and crossed on the 9th. The militia were called out, and obeyed with unusual alacrity. D'Estaing landed three thousand of his men at Beaulieu, on the 13th, and three days afterwards the united army appeared before the

Sept.161b city. D’Estaing had arrived by sea before the land troops, and summoned the city to surrender. Prevost endea vored successfully to procure delay by protracting negotia tions. A truce was inconsiderately granted, at the termination of which he announced his determination to defend himself to the last extremity. The interval had been industriously employed in strengthening his defences. On the first intelligence of the arrival of the French, he

had recalled his detachments, and ordered all the British troops in Georgia to concentrate in Savannah. During the time allowed for the truce, Colonel Maitland brought safely into the city the division of veteran corps that had been sta tioned under his charge at Beaufort. The combined forces then undertook a regular siege of the city, the preparations for which occupied several days. The garrison, on their side, laboured constantly to strengthen their works. On the 4th of October the fire of the besiegers was opened, from batteries mounting nearly a hundred pieces, and kept up for five days, without producing any sensible effects upon the works of the city. During the bombardment the houses of the city suffered much, and Prevost applied to the American and French generals, for permission to remove the women and children to a safe place on the river, to abide the event of the siege. This was refused, on the alleged ground that the British intended by the proposal only a finesse to withdraw the booty they had gained in Carolina. The besiegers. insisted upon the necessity of immediate surrender. The refusal is only defensible as an act of mistaken policy, -as a breach of courtesy and humanity it cannot be sustained. · The unexpected delay placed the Count D'Estaing in an embarrassing predicament. His officers represented the season as unfavorable for the continuance of so valuable a fleet on the coast, and he had good reason to apprehend an attack from the British fleets, which had had time to unite, was superior to his own, and would have the advantage of position. Precious time had been lost, and he became convinced of the necessity of immediately deciding the siege by a general assault, or by raising it altogether. The alternative was proposed to Lincoln, who preferred making the assault, which was accordingly attempted on the 9th of October by the combined forces. The attacking columns were led by D'Estaing and Lincoln in person against the right of the enemy. They were to be sustained by a division under Count Dillon, which lost the way, and failed to co-operate in the attack. The defence was conducted with gallantry, and the battle was nearly an hour obstinate and bloody. The American army was at last driven off with considerable loss. The French killed and wounded was 637, the continentals, about 240. D'Estaing was wounded slightly and Count Pulaski mortally. The British loss was not over 170.

Oct. 18th

Great credit was given to General Prevost, Colonel Maitland, and the engineer, Major Moncrief, for their gallant and successful defence of Savannah.

The repulse from Savannah was immediately followed by the separation of the French and American forces, and the abandon nent of the enterprise. Lincoln retreated into South Carolina, and D’Estaing re-embarked his troops and sailed for the West Indies. The fleet had the misfortune to meet with a storm, which dispersed them Part of them, with the Count D'Estaing himself, soon afte arrived in Europe.

With this retreat ended the Southern campaign of 1779. The results were unfavorable to the American cause. The failure before Savannah, and the departure of their French allies, without having afforded any decisive aid to the States, produced great disappointment and mortification. The enemy, however, had been forced to confine himself to the coast, and the upper parts of the State were less subject to his control than at the commencement of the campaign.

Sir Henry Clinton, apprehending an attack from the French on his position in New York, recalled the troops that had been so long inactive in Rhode Island. The evacuation was made with such precipitation, that a quantity of munitions of war, artillery, &c. were left to the Americans. By keeping the British flag flying, the republicans succeeded in decoying several vessels belonging to the enemy into the port, and captured them.

The naval enterprises of the Americans, though not on a scale of magnitude, were numerous and successful, in making prizes of British merchantmen, and harassing the commerce of Britain, even on her own coasts. Paul Jones, an adventurous sailor, in a privateer under the orders of Congress, swept the Irish Channel, made several landings, and spread alarm among the inhabitants along the Scotch and Irish coasts. In September he appeared with a small fleet, fitted out from French ports, before the town of Leith. He was prevented from burning the shipping in that place, as had been his purpose, by adverse winds, until the defences were made too strong. Sailing thence, he fell in with a British force, when a most daring, obstinate, and bloody naval combat ensued. Jones's ship, the Bon Homme Richard, of 40 guns, engaged the British ship Serapis, Captain Pearson, of 44 guns, and a hot firing commenced at half past

[ocr errors]

Oct. 27th

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

seven, and continued for an hour, within musket shot. The ships then becoming entangled, Jones ordered them to be lashed together, in which situation, with the muzzles of the guns touching each other's sides, the fight was maintained with incredible fury for two hours. The carnage was horrible, yet neither thought of yielding; the Serapis was on fire not fewer than ten times, and on one occasion both frigates were on fire at once, raking each other at the same time with terrible effect. The quarter-deck of the Serapis was left without a man by the blowing up of a hand-grenade, which communicated itself to a quantity of cartridges. One of Jones's squadron approached to aid him, and continued for a while to fire broadsides, which injured, indiscriminately, friends and foes. At half past ten, the Serapis struck her colors, and was taken possession of by Jones. His own ship was so shattered that the crew were compelled to leave her and take refuge on board the Serapis. Shortly afterwards she went down. The Pallas, another of Jones's squadron, had engaged and captured the Countess of Scarborough. Paul Jones, with his prizes, arrived safely in Holland. The British ambassador, Sir Joseph Yorke, presented a memorial to the States General, demanding the surrender of Jones as a pirate. This was refused by them on the ground that they desired not to interfere with the question of Ameri can Independence, but they could not refuse the shelter of their ports to vessels arriving in distress, as was the case with the squadron of Jones. The answer was highly dis pleasing to the British court, and stimulated their enmity against the Dutch.

In the West and Southwest of the States, the British arms were unfortunate in 1779. Colonel Clarke of Virginia, early in the season, with a small force, penetrated the wilderness across the Western frontier, into the heart of the Indian country, and captured the British post on the Wabash. He thus disconcerted an expedition which had been planned against Virginia, and broke up the alliance between the British and several tribes of Indians. Spain, in the mean time, carried on a war on her own account, captured West Florida, and expelled the British entirely from the Mississippi. On the other hand, they lost Omoa, in which the British found plunder to the amount of 640.000 pounds sterling.

A French squadron, under M. de Lauzun, captured the

« AnteriorContinuar »