« PreviousContinue »
the colonial army, prescribed, and, in some cases, extorted an oath of allegiance. A multitude of .motley partisans nocking to his standard, he designed to destroy the provisions collected at Suffolk for the Virginia troops. To prevent this, Col. Woodford, on the 20th of November, detached 215 light troops, under Col. Scott and Major Marshall, to that place, and on the 25th arrived there with the main body of the Virginia troops.
About this time evidence was brought to light of a diabolical scheme, matured by Dunmore, against that colony of which he pretended to be a friend. This was a cooperation of the various Indian tribes with the tories on the frontiers. John Connelly, a Pennsylvanian, an artful, enterprising man, was the projector of the intrigue. In July he nearly matured the plan with the governor. Ample rewards were offered to the militia captains inclined to the royal cause, and willing to act under Connelly. To connect its extensive ramifications, he was dispatched to General Gage, at Boston, and returned about the 15th of October, with instructions from the latter. These invested him with the rank of Lieut.-Colonel of a regiment of loyalists, to be raised on the frontier. Fort Pitt was to be the rendezvous of all the forces to act under him, among which were several companies of the Royal Irish, then at Fort Gage, in the Illinois country. From thence they would march through Virginia, and join Dunmore on the 20th of April at Alexandria, where an army was to land under the cannon of ships-of-war and possess themselves of the town. For a time, fortune favored this formidable plot, in the prosecution of which Connelly often travelled long distances in various directions. Suspicions were at length aroused: an emissary of the governor's was arrested, upon whom were found papers partly disclosing the plot. These led to the arrestation of Connelly Ho, with two confederates, Allen Cameron and Dr. John Smyth, both Scotchmen, were taken near Hagerstown, Maryland, on their way to Detroit. Upon searching their baggage, a general plan of the whole scheme was found, with large sums of money, and a letter from Dunmore to one of the Indian chiefs. "Thus was a plot, originally contrived with profound and amazing secrecy, and in its subsequent stages managed with consummate skill, brought by patriotic vigilance to an untimely issue."
The only avenue from Suffolk to Norfolk—to which place he was destined—by which Col. Woodford could march, was by the Great Bridge, about 12 miles from the latter. The enemy were posted there in a stockade fort, on his arrival with the Virginian troops Woodford constructed a breastwork within cannon-shot of the fort.
On the 9th of December, Capt. Fordyce, at the head of a party of British grenadiers, in attempting to storm the breastwork, was repulsed by a most destructive and bloody fire. After this, Dunmore, with most of his^followers, took refuge on board his vessels. The Virginians marched into Norfolk, and annoyed the enemy by firing into their vessels. In retaliation, Dunmore cannonaded the town, and on the night of the 1st of January, 1776, landed a party, who, under cover of their cannon, set fire to the houses on the river which had sheltered the provincials. The committee of safety ordered Col. Robert Howe to destroy the remainder of the town, to prevent the British from making it a permanent post. Norfolk, then the most populous town in Virginia, contained near 6,000 inhabitants.
Colonels Woodford and Stevens assisted Col. Howe in the command at Norfolk. Besides the two regiments already raised, the Convention resolved to raise seven more. Six of these were placed on the continental establishment, to whose officers Congress granted commissions, in order, beginning with Col. Henry, of the 1st, and ending with Col. Buckner, of the 6th Regiment.*
Col. Patrick Henry resigned his commission, much to the regret of the regiment, and was thereupon chosen a member of the Convention from Hanover.
The General Convention of Virginia met at the capital, May 6th, 1776, and appointed Edmund Pendleton, President, and John Tazewell, Clerk. Since the flight of Uunmore, the House of Burgesses had met twice, pursuant to adjournment, but on neither occasion was there a quorum. They now met on the same day with the Convention, but "did neither proceed to business, nor adjourn as a House of Burgesses." Considering their meeting as illegal, not in conformity with a summons from a governor, they unanimously dissolved themselves. "Thus was the tottering fabric of the royal government utterly demolished in Virginia; to substitute in its stead a structure of more elegant and more solid form,, was now the task of the Convention."
On the 15th of this month, the convention, after appealing to "the Searcher of hearts" for the sincerity of their former declarations in favor of peace and union with the mother country, adopted unanimously the following resolution:
"That the delegates appointed to represent this colony in General Congress, be intended to propose to that respectable body, to declare the united colonies free and indefndtnt State*, absolved from all allegiance to, or dependence on the crown or parliament of Great Britain; and that they give the assent of this colony to such declaration, Md whatever measures may be thought necessary by Congress for forming foreign alliances, >oda confederation of the colonies, at such time, and in the manner that to them shall seem best: provided, that the power of forming governments for, and the regulations of lie internal concerns of each colony, be left to the colonial legislatures."
The convention appointed a committee to prepare a Declaration of Rights, and a Plan of Government, for the colony. The former was adopted on the 12th of June. On the 29th a constitution was unanimously adopted; "the first which was framed with a view to a permanent separation from Great Britain since those of South Carolina and New Hampshire, which alone preceded it, were to continue only until a reconciliation could be effected between the mother country and the colonies. This plan of government was proposed by the celebrated George Mason.f and had been adopted in committee before the arrival of one which Mr. Jefferson, then in Congress, had prepared. They however accepted Mr. Jefferson's preamble, which is nearly the same as the r recital of wrongs in the Declaration of Independence.";];
* The following were appointed field-officers :—
Regiment. Colonels. Lieut.-Colonels. Majors.
Third, Hugh Mercer, George Wccdon, Thomas Marshall.
Fourth, Adam Steven, Isaac Read, R. Lawson,
Fifth, William Peachy, Wm. Crawford, J. Parker.
Sixth, Mordecai Buckner, Thomas Elliott, J. Hendricks
Seventh, Wm. Dangerfield, Alex. M'Clanahan, Wm. Nelson.
Eighth, Peter Muhlenburg, A. Bowman, P. Helvistone.
Ninth, Thomas Fleming, George Matthews, M. Donavon. * The Declaration of Rights was also drawn up by lrim. t Tucker's Life of Jefferson «.
The following appointments were made under1 the constitution:
Patrick Henry, Esq., governor. John Page, Dudley Digges, John Trfyloe, John Blair, Benjamin Harrison of Berkeley, Bartholomew Dandridge, Charles Carter of Shirley, and Benjamin Harrison of Brandon, counsellors of state. Thomas Whiting, John Hutchings, Champion Travis, Thomas Newton, jun., and George Webb, Esquires, commissioners of admiralty. Thomas Everard and James Cocke, Esquires, commissioners for settling accounts. Edmund Randolph, Esq., attorney-general.
On the 5th of July the convention adjourned. Though the session was brief, it was an important one. Among other acts besides the formation of a government, they passed an ordinance for erecting salt works in the colony: for establishing a board of commissioners to superintend and direct the naval affairs of the colony: for raising six troops of horse: for arranging the counties into districts for electing senators, &c. They also resolved to expunge from the litany such parts as related to the king and royal family, and substituted, in the morning and evening service, such forms of expression as were better suited to the new state of affairs.
The Declaration of Independence, so strongly recommended by the Virginia convention, was passed in Congress on the 4th of July, 1776; and, agreeably to an order of the privy council, it was proclaimed on the 25th of the same month at the capitol, the court-house, and the palace at Williamsburg, amidst the acclamations of the people, and the firing of cannon and musketry.
The energetic measures that had been adopted by the Virginia troops in precluding the flotilla of Dunmore from obtaining supplies, had at last obliged them to burn the intrenchments they had erected near the ruins of Norfolk, and seek a refuge on board their ships, where disease and hunger pursued them. The presence of his lordship in the lower country had given countenance to the disaffected, who were there numerous. A vigorous course was ordered to be pursued towards them. Col. Woodford, stationed at Kemps' Landing, (now Kempsville, Princess Anne,) humanely executed these orders, which were intrusted to him by the commits tee of safety, through Maj. Gen. Chas. Lee.
Dunmore, with his fleet, left Hampton Roads about the 1st of June, landed and erected fortifications on Gwynn's island, within the limits of what is now Matthew's county. On the 9th of July he was attacked by the Virginians, under Brig. Gen. Andrew Lewis, and forced to abandon the island. Shortly after, Dunmore dispatched the miserable remnant of his followers to Florida and • the West Indies, and sailing himself to the north, forever left the shores of Virginia.
The nefarious plot of Connelly was only part of an extensive scheme of operations, which the British had meditated in seeking an alliance with the savages. By their instigation the Indians were harassing the frontiers of the southern states to such a degree that a combination was formed to destroy their settlements on the borders. Col. Christian, on the part of this state, marched with a body of Virginia troops into the Cherokee country, burnt four of their towns, and compelled them to sue for peace.'
On the 7th of October, 1770, the Assembly of Virginia met for the first time; Edmund Pendleton was chosen Speaker of the House of Delegates, and Archibald Carey of the Senate. One of the earliest of their labors was the repeal of all acts of Parliament against dissenters, which was the first direct blow struck at the established church in the state.
In the session of this fall, the Assembly appointed Thomas Jefferson, Edmund Pendleton, George Wythe, George Mason, and Thomas Ludwell Lee, Esquires, a committee to revise the State laws, and prepare a code more suitable to the new state of affairs: the execution of the work devolved on the three first.
At the north, the war was progressing with various success. The Americans had been defeated at Long Island, New York came into the possession of the British, »nd General Montgomery fell before the walls of Quebec, and his army retreated from Canada. Washington's army, reduced to 3,500 effective men, retreated through ^ew Jersey, before the overwhelming force of the enemy, and crossed the Delaware. On the 2oth of December, 1776, Washington recrossed the Delaware, and the victories of Trenton and Princeton, the first on the 2Cth of December, and the last on the 3d of January, at this the darkest period of the revolution, reanimated the hopes of the friends of liberty.
The principal object of the British in the campaign of 1777, was to open a communk»tioo between New York city and Canada, and to separate New England from the other stiles. Early in the year, Burgoyne was sent for this purpose, with 7,000 men, from Canada. He was arrested by Gen. Gates, and ou the 17th of October, was compelled tosurrender his whole army to him. The capture of Burgoyne spread joy through out the country. Washington, in the mean while, was in anxious suspense, watching the operations of Sir Wm. Howe, who had sailed from New York with 18,000 men, and a lute fleet commanded by Lord Howe. Apprehensive it was a ruse, designed to draw him to the south, and leave the north open to their attacks, Washington proceeded to Bocks co., Penn., and there waited the destination of the enemy.
The British fleet sailed up the Chesapeake, and landed the army in Maryland which ■odd after defeated the Americans at Brandywine and Germantown. In the former Kuon, the Virginia brigades, under Wayne and Weedon, distinguished themselves. The British did not follow up these victories with vigor. While the Americans lost only > few hundred men, these conflicts improved them in discipline, and better fitted them for the contest.
Although the seat of the war was for so long a period transferred from Virginia, her soil was doomed soon to be again trod by the foot of the invader. Previous, however, to giving an abstract of the military operations which occurred here in the last few years of the revolutionary struggle, we shall glance at a few matters too important to be omitted in even this brief sketch of her history.
While the events above alluded to were transpiring at the north, Virginia was exerting every nerve, in furnishing additional men and means, for the common cause, and adopting energetic measures against the disaffected within her own bosom. Among them were many British merchants, settled in the towns, in whose hands was much of the trade. These were compelled to leave the state, or be taken in custody. An oath of allegiance to the commonwealth, was also required of all free-born male inhabitants over 16 years of age. At this time, a taste for elegant literature and profound research prevailed throughout Virginia. The learned Dr. Small, of William and Mary College, had chiefly contributed to the diffusion of that taste before the war, through the encouragement of Gov. Fauquier, " the ablest character who had then ever filled the chair of government in Virginia." A literary and scientific society was instituted, amid the excitement of revolutionary scenes, of which Mr. John Page* was president, and Prof. James Madison, one of the secretaries. They held a meeting in the capitol, and several valuable philosophical papers were read. The calls of war, unfortunately, prevented a ripe development of the association.
A loan-oflice was opened at Williamsburg, to effect two resolutions of Congress for the obtaining a loan of continental money for the use of the United States. Another loan-office was established by the state, for borrowing, on the part of the commonwealth, one million of dollars, to supersede the necessity of emitting more paper money.
It was fortunate for Virginia that she had at this time, on her western borders, an individual of rare military genius, in the person of Col. George Rogers Clarke, "the Hannibal of the West," who not only saved her back settlements from Indian fury, but planted her standard far beyond the Ohio. The governor of the Canadian settlements in the Illinois country, by every possible method, instigated the Indians to annoy the frontier. Virginia placed a small force of about 250 men under Clarke, vqho descending the Ohio, hid their boats, and marched northwardly, with their provisions on their backs. These being consumed, they subsisted for two days on roots, and, in a state of famine, appeared before Kitskaskias, unseen and unheard. At midnight, they surprised and took the town and fort, which had resisted a much larger force; then seizing the golden moment, sent a detachment who with equal success surprised three other towns. Roche, blave, the obnoxious governor, was sent to Virginia. On his person were found written instructions from Quebec, to excite the Indians to hostilities, and reward them for the scalps of the Americans. The settlers transferred their allegiance to Virginia, and she, as the territory belonged to her by conquest and charter, in the autumnal session of 1778 erected it into a county to be called Illinois. Insulated in the heart of the Indian country, in the midst of the most ferocious tribes, few men but Clarke could have preserved this acquisition. Hamilton, the governor of Detroit, a bold and tyrannical personage, determined, with an overwhelming force of British and Indians, to penetrate up the Ohio to Fort Pitt, to sweep all the principal settlements in his way, and besiege Kaskaskias. Clarke despaired of keeping possession of the country, but he resolved to preserve this post, or die in its defence. While he was strengthening the fortifications, he received information that Hamilton, who was at Fort St. Vincent, had weakened his force by sending some Indians against the frontiers. This information, to the genius of Clarke, disclosed, with the rapidity of an electric flash, not only safety but new glory. To resolve to attack Hamilton before he could collect the Indians, was the work of a moment,—the only hope of saving the country. With a band of 150 gallant and hardy comrades, he marched across the country. It was in February, 1779. When within nine miles of the enemy, it took these intrepid men five days to cross the drowned lands of the Wabash, having often to wade up to their breasts in water. Had not the weather been remarkably mild, they must have perished. On the evening of the 23d, they landed in sight of the fort, before the enemy knew any thing of their approach. After a siege of eighteen hours it surrendered, without the loss of a man to the besiegers. The governor was sent prisoner to Williamsburg, andfconsidcrable stores fell into the possession of the conqueror. Other auspicious circumstances crowned this result. Clarke, intercepting a convoy from Canada, oir their way to this post, took the mail, 40 prisoners, and goods to the value of $45,000 ; and to crown all, his express from Virginia arrived
* Afterwards governor of Virginia. t Subsequently bishop of the Episcopal Church