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XX.

BOOK

Various expeditions were undertaken to different

parts of the province, with uniform success; and 1782. lord Cornwallis, by a well-concerted manoeuvre,

having taken a position between the American army and its grand dépôt of stores at Albemarle Courthouse, could not avoid exulting in his superiority. Knowing that the marquis de la Fayette was on his march to prevent that important capture, and believing that he could not make his approach but with great disadvantage and hazard, he in an unguarded moment exclaimed, “The boy cannot escape me!" But the marquis had the address to extricate himself from this difficulty, by opening in the night a nearer and long-disused road to the Court-house : and the next day, to the surprise of lord Cornwallis, he had taken a position which effectually covered it from attack.

Lord Cornwallis, finding his plan frustrated, proceeded to Williamsburg, the capital of the province, which he took 'possession of, June 26th, without opposition. Here he received advices from sir Henry Clinton, which informed him, that the commanderin-chief, conceiving New York to be in danger from the united forces of the French and Americans, de

sired the troops under general Arnold, which he Reverse of had detached to Virginia, to be returned. This was

the beginning of disasters. With this requisition ļord Cornwallis was compelled, however reluctantly, to comply. Knowing that his adversary had

fortune.

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1782.

men.

been lately reinforced by a strong body of troops BOOK under general Wayne, he did not think his present force adequate to maintain his station at Williamsburg; he therefore determined to cross James River to Portsmouth.

From false intelligence general Wayne arrived with the van of the American army on the banks of the river, in expectation of attacking the rear of the British, unfortunately before any part of the army had passed. Perceiving his mistake, he deemed it the best policy to charge boldly, though his corps did not amount to more than eight hundred

After sustaining a very unequal conflict for some time with great resolution, Wayne ordered a rapid retreat ; and lord Cornwallis, amazed at the circumstances of this attack, and suspecting that it must be meant to draw him into an ambuscade, forbade all pursuit ; and thus the courage of Wayne, as it often happens, availed more to his safety than if he had acted with the most timid and scrupulous caution. In the night lord Cornwallis passed over to Portsmouth, where he purposed to establish his head-quarters ; but, on further deliberation, removed Retreat to

York

Town. to York Town, as the more eligible situation.

Hitherto the plan of the campaign on the part of general Washington had wavered in uncertainty. He had long and seriously meditated an attack upon New York, and general Clinton had good reason to

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1782

BOOK believe that this was finally determined upon at an

interview between the American general and count Rochambeau, which took place in May; and in consequence of this project, great preparations were made in the vicinity of New York, indicatory of an approaching siege. But the arrival of considerable reinforcements from England, and the recall of so large a body of troops from Virginia, led general Washington, in his dispatch of July 30th, to ob serve, “ that from this change of circumstances they should probably entirely change their plan of operations."

At length a letter from count de Grasse, stating that his destination was unalterably fixed to the Chesapeak, left no alternative; and a joint answer was immediately sent by the American and French generals, that they would lose no time in removing the army to the south of the Delawar, there to meet the admiral. All the

All the appearances of an attack upon New York were, however, still carefully kept up, till at length, on the 24th of August, the allied army suddenly decamped, passed the North River, and by rapid marches proceeded to Philadelphia, where they arrived on the 30th; the fleet of count de Grasse, consisting of twenty-four ships of the line, entering nearly at the same time the bay of Chesapeak.

So strongly impressed was the mind of the Bri. tish commander-in-chief with the notion of an attack

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1782,

upon New York, that he for a long time conceived BOOK the southern march of the American army to be only a feint. But at length, finding that the van of the American army had actually passed the Delawar, and receiving authentic intelligence that the fleet of count de Grasse was destined to the Chesapeak, he communicated, as he tells us, his şUSPICions to lord Cornwallis ; at the same time assuring his lordship, “that he would either reinforce him by every possible means in his power, or make the best diversion he could in his favor."

Doubtless in this critical situation the most un. limited discretion ought to have been vested in lord Cornwallis, considering the extreme uncertainty of affording him timely and effectual succour, either to have retreated to Carolina, or to have attacked the enemy previous to the arrival of the combined army. “But being assured,” to use the words of lord Cornwallis, “ that every possible means would be tried by the navy and army for his relief, he did not think himself at liberty to attempt either, though he had so unfavorable an opinion of the post he occupied, that nothing but these assurances would have in. duced him to attempt its defence.”

It is evident that the leading ideas of the two British generals did not coincide ; and it may be remarked, that from the moment lord Cornwallis began to act in subordination to orders sent him from New York he ceased to be successful-So essential

XX.

BOOK is it that the supreme command should reside in the

centre of action. The commander-in-chief was at 1782. this period no more than the governor of a distant

garrison; but had sir Henry Clinton joined lord Cornwallis in person at his entrance into Virginia, or had the supreme command been then transferred to lord Cornwallis, the campaign, so far as we are authorised to draw a conclusion from concurring probabilities, would not have terminated so disastrously.

On the 5th of September, the English fleet, consisting of nineteen ships of the line under admiral Graves, appeared off the Capes of Virginia ; and count de Grasse, expecting a reinforcement from Rhode Island, stood out to sea for their protection. A warm engagement ensued, in which the English appear not to have obtained the advantage; and the count de Grasse, being joined by the squadron of M. Barras, was left undisputed master of the Chesapeak. Relief was from this time wholly impracti

and lord Cornwallis withdrew within his works, making every preparation for a vigorous defence. The military talents of this commander, though of no mean rate, were nevertheless unequal to so novel and perilous an exigency.

On the 17th of September the superior sagacity of general Green pronounced, in writing to his military friend and correspondent baron Steuben, “ No. thing can save lord Cornwallis but a rapid retreat

cable;

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