Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

and he commenced his operations sanguine in the expectation of completing his own glory, and accomplishing the designs of his country by extinguishing the American rebellion. The ensuing movements in a few months, by which these prospects were reversed, his army cooped up in a narrow peninsula, and himself and them made captives to an overwhelming force, brought by active and skilful maneuvres against him, close the most important era in the battles of the revolution. The great drama was soon brought to a catastrophe, and the final battle of liberty fought and won against apparently hopeless odds.

On the arrival of Cornwallis in Virginia, the small army to whom its defence was intrusted, consisted of but little more than three thousand men, of whom not one thousand were regulars, the rest were mere militia. The Marquis La Fayette commanded them, and, taught in the school of Washington, he so tempered his natural genius and national ardor of character with caution and circumspection, moved with such celerity and maneuvred with such skill, that he sustained himself and his weak forces with astonishing constancy and success, and baffled superior numbers and discipline, and veteran experience.

Detailed narrative of these important operations must be * preceded by the equally brilliant and successful campaign of Greene in South Carolina.

The principal British posts in South Carolina were connected by forts, garrisoned by small detachments, and the communications were kept up by strong patroles of cavalry. When Greene advanced against Camden, the partizan corps were directed to operate against the forts and break up the lines of communication. Weakened by the detachments he had sent on that service, he was not able either to assault or invest the post of Camden. He therefore encamped at a place called Hobkirk's Hill, in the expectation of alluring Lord Rawdon out of his entrenchments,

or forcing him, from the interruption of his supplies from below, to venture a battle. The British general was

was not averse to

the encounter, and prudently determined to bring it on at once, before the army of Greene was re-enforced. Sumpter's corps had not arrived, and Lee and Marion were engaged in investing Fort Watson, lower down on the Wateree, towards Charleston. On the 25th of April, Lord Rawdon advanced

April 25. with his whole force to the attack of Greene's

[ocr errors]

position at Hobkirk's Hill. He hoped to find the American army unprepared, because they had but the day before returned from a position they had taken at Sandhill Creek, to be in a more direct road of communication with Marion and Lee. He found the Americans prepared for him, with numbers somewhat greater than his own. The British were about nine hundred, and the Americans about twelve hundred, of whom more than three hundred were militia. The attack of the British van was sustained by the Maryland and Virginia troops until the army formed, and by degrees the whole line were engaged with the main body of the British. The action was warmly sustained on both sides, and victory inclined to the Americans so strongly, that Greene despatched Colonel Washington with his cavalry to intercept the enemy's retreat. At this critical moment the two right companies, having lost their officers, were thrown into confusion, and fell back against orders. The attempt to rally increased the disorder; the British seized the opportunity and rushed forward ; panic seized the whole regiment, and Greene was compelled to order a general retreat. This was effected in good order. He carried off his artillery safely, most of the wounded, and some prisoners. The pursuit of the enemy did not continue far, and the Americans encamped on the next day at Ridgeley's mill, about five miles from Camden. The killed, wounded, and missing, of both sides, were nearly equal in number. The British had, as in the case of the battle of Guilford, the empty honors of victory—their adversaries all the substantial fruits. Rawdon was again shut up, with diminished forces, in Camden; and Greene, with the partizan detachments co-operating with him, watched the passes by which succor and supplies were expected Moon from Charleston. On the 7th of May, a re-enforce

e ment from the Pedee, commanded by Colonel Watson, reached Lord Rawdon, and he immediately marched out to compel Greene to risk another battle. Here he was foiled again. The American general, confident that the garrison could not maintain their position long without supplies, on the advance of Watson retired from his camp near Camden, and moved to the high hills behind Sawney's Creek. Rawdon, finding his design impracticable, retraced his steps to Camden. The fall of Fort Watson, which had surrendered to Lee and Marion on the twenty-third, and the breaking of his line of communications, reduced him to the necessity of

abandoning Camden. On the 10th of May he de.

| May 10th. stroyed the works, mills, some public buildings, and part of his own baggage, evacuated the fort, and retired with his troops beyond the Santee river. On the day he arrived at Nelson's Ferry, the fort at Motte's surrendered to Sumpter. Besides Motte's and Watson, the other forts invested by the Americans, successively fell. Sumpter took Orangeburgh on the 11th of May; Lee took Granby on the 15th; and, about the same time, Marion took Georgetown. The loss of men in these forts did not exceed eight hundred, but the gain to the Americans was the recovery of the coun. try and the breaking up of the British chain. Lord Rawdon, on receiving the unwelcome news, retired still further, to Eutaw Springs. By this movement he abandoned the upper country to the whigs, and concentrated the British force below the Santee river. The spirit of the country rose, and animated exertions were made by the friends of Independence, and with success, to rouse the inhabitants to co-operate with the American army.

As soon as Rawdon evacuated Camden, Greene broke up his camp at Sawney's Creek, and marched to Fort Granby, on the Congaree river, one of the principal southern branches

of the Santee. From that place he despatched Lee to join E Pickens, in the neighbourhood of Augusta, on the Savannah

river; and, after reposing for a few days, marched with his

army to reduce the post of Ninety-Six. These were the * only important posts left to the British of their line of dei fence across the whole province. On his way to join Gen.

Pickens, Lee, with a part of his legion, made a forced march . of seventy-five miles in three days, and captured a quantity

of stores, ammunition, and two companies of the garrison, at Silver Bluff, twelve miles below Augusta. Forming a junction with the forces of Pickens on the same day, they proceeded to invest Augusta. The defence was obstinate and skilful. The garrison held out until June, when

June 5th resistance became useless, and about three hundred

of them surrendered. * General Greene was not so successful in his own enter.

prise. He commenced the siege of Ninety-Six on the 22d of May, and broke ground to besiege it in form on the 25th.

The place was one of great natural strength, fortified with - care, and garrisoned by five hundred and sixty men, com manded by Colonel Cruger. Greene's forces exceeded nine

hundred, and his military works were constructed under the superintendence of the celebrated Pole, Kosciusko. The siege was vigorously pressed; the works had been pushed near to the walls, and, reinforced by Lee on the 8th of June, the besiegers were confident of the speedy surrender of the fort. At this critical period, intelligence was received that Lord Rawdon had been strengthened by the newly arrived regiments from Ireland, and was advancing rapidly to relieve the post. No alternative was left for Greene but to raise the siege at once, or carry the fort by assault. The assault was Sune 18th. non determined on, and made: but though the assailants

de tots behaved with great bravery, and continued the ıttack under a galling fire against an equally brave defence tor a considerable time, they were beaten off, and the whole army raised the siege and retreated before the ap » proach of Rawdon. In this unsuccessful enterprise, three weeks were consumed, and one hundred and eighty-five men lost, out of the diminished American army. The failure was a deep disappointment to the Americans: the fruits of their labors were torn from them in the very moment of victory. The little army was chased by Lord Rawdon, first over the Saluda, and then beyond the Ennoree river. Finding it impossible to overtake them, the British general return. ed, drew off part of the force from Ninety-Six, made preparations to evacuate it altogether, and established himself for the present on the Congaree. He gave orders for Colonel Cruger to join him there, and sent for reinforcements from Charleston.

The American General was, however, though repulsed and defeated, neither disheartened nor irresolute. Some of his more desponding officers, seeing the accumulating force about to be brought against them, advised a retreat into Virginia. His answer was prompt,-he "would recover South Carolina or perish in the attempt.” He learned that Colonel Cruger had been detained at Ninety-Six, and, sending Pickens to watch that detachment, he called in his light troops, summoned the militia under Sumpter and Marion, and, to the astonishment of the British general, within two days of his arrival on the banks of the Congaree, Greene was before him with recruited numbers, ready for battle again. This elasticity of mind, and prompt facility of resources, fitted the American general peculiarly for the con test in which he was engaged. If Rawdon concentrated his forces, the republican inhabitants rose to aid in reducing his posts and expelling the tories; if he dispersed them they were in danger of being cut off in detail, and Greene always seemed to increase in audacity and determination after defeat. The British general, though flushed with a recent victory, declined the action which was offered him, and shortly after returned to Orangeburgh. The union of the British forces there made them too strong to be assailed, and the main body of the American army retired to the heights beyond the Santee. The policy adopted here, was the same that had proved so successful at Camden. Partizan expeditions, under active officers, were sent out continually to interrupt the communications between Orangeburgh and Charleston. Sumpter and Marion, and Lee's legion, did excellent service, captured convoys, broke up posts, made prisoners, and harassed detachments with which they were not strong enough to engage.

Lord Rawdon soon after returned to England, and was succeeded in the military command of the province by Colonel Stuart. Before his departure, however, he stainea his otherwise gallant reputation with an act of lawless severity and unrelenting cruelty, in the execution, without trial, as a traitor, of a distinguished American officer and gentleman. On the capture of Charleston by Cornwallis, Colonel Isaac Hayne was among those who tendered his parole, and was offered the alternative of going to prison, or becoming a British subject. His family were ill with the small-pox, and needed his tenderest attentions. He accordingly made the requisite declaration of allegiance, stipulating with the British general, and receiving the assurance that he should not be called upon to bear arms in the royal ser vice, and returned to his plantation. In breach of this stipu lation he was repeatedly summoned to bear arms, and con stantly refused. When the British were driven from the country between the Edisto and Stono Ferry, where his

residence was, he considered the inability to protect as a i discharge of the obligation to obey, and repaired to the

American camp. He was chosen colonel of a regiment, and

in an action with the British, was taken prisoner. Without † the formality of a trial, he was summarily ordered to execu

tion, on the mere report of a court of inquiry. The petitions

of the inhabitants of Charleston, in mass, for his life,-the į prayers of children, the remonstrances of many loyalists,

« AnteriorContinuar »