« AnteriorContinuar »
the commissioners until their independence was acknowledged, and the British fleets and armies removed from America. At the same time, the colonies were warned not to suffer themselves to be deceived into fe. curity by any offers that might be made ; but to use their utmost endeavours to send their quotas with all diligence into the field. The individuals with whom the commissioners conversed on the subject of the conciliatory bill, generally returned for answer that the day of reconciliation was paft; and that the haughtiness of Britain had extinguished all filial regard in the breasts of Americans.
About this time also Mr. Silas Deane arrived from France with two copies of the treaty of commerce and alliance to be signed by congress. Advices of the most agreeable nature were also received from various parts, representing in the most favourable light the dispositions of the European powers; all of whom, it was said, wished to see the independence of America Settled upon the most firm and permanent basis. Confidering the situation of matters with the colonists at this time, therefore, it is no wonder that the commissioners found themselves unable to accomplith the errand on which they came. Their proposals were utterly rejected, themselves treated as spies, and all intercourse with them interdi&ted.
But before any final answer could be obtained from congress, Sir Henry Clinton had taken the resoluton of evacuating Philadelphia. Accordingly, on the 10th of June, after having made all necessary preparations, the army marched out of the city and crossed the Delaware before noon with all its baggage and other incumbrances. General Washington, apprised of this design, had dispatched expresses into the Jerseys with orders to collect all the force that could be assembled in order to obstruct the march of the enemy. After various movements on both fides, Sir Henry Clinton, with the royal army, arrived on the 27th of June at a place called Freehold; where, judging that the enemy would attack him, he encamped in a very strong situation. Here General Washington determined to make an attack as soon as the army had be. gun its march. The night was spent in making the necessary preparations, and General Lee with his division was ordered to be ready by day-break. But Sir Henry Clinton, juftly apprehending that the chief object of the enemy was the baggage, committed it to the care of General Knyphauseu, whom he ordered to set out early in the morning, while he followed with the rest of the army. The attack was accordingly made; but the British general had taken such care to arrange his troops properly, and so effectually supported his forces when engaged with the Americans, that the latter not only made no impression, but
were with difficulty preserved from a total defeat by the advance of General Washington with the whole army. The British troops effected their retreat with the loss of three hundred men, of whom many died through mere fatigue without any wound. In this action general Lee was charged by General Walhington with disobedience and misconduct in retreating before the British army. He was tried by a court-martial, and sentenced to a temporary suspension from his command. After they had arrived at Sandy Hook, a bridge of hoats was by Lord Howe's directions thrown from thence over the channel which separated the island from the main land, and the troops were conveyed aboard the fleet: after which they failed to New York. After sending some light detachments to watch the enemy's motions, General Washington marched towards the North River, where a great force had been collected to join him, and where it was now expected that some very capi. tal operations would take place.
In the mean time, France had set about her preparations for the affiftance of the Americans. On the 14th of April Count d'Etaing had failed from Toulon with a strong squadron of ships of the line and frigates, and arrived on the coast of Virginia in the beginning of July, while the British fleet was employed in conveying the forces from Sandy Hook to New York. It consisted of one ship of ninery guns, one
of eighty, fix of seventy-four, and four of fixty-four, besides several large frigates; and, exclufive of its compliment of failors, had fix thousand marines and soldiers on board. To oppose this the British had only fix ships of sixty-four guns, three of fifty, and two of forty, with some frigates and floops. Notwithstanding this inferiority, however, the British admiral posted himself fo advantageously, and showed such superior skill, that d'Estaing did not think proper to attack him. He there. fore remained at anchor four miles off Sandy Hook till the 22d of July, without effecting any thing more than the capture of some vessels, which, through ignorance of his arrival, fell into his hands.
The next attempt of the French admiral was, in conjunction with the Americans, on Rhode island. It was proposed that d'Estaing, with the fix thousand troops he had with him, should make a descent on the southern part of the island, while a body of the Americans should take and destroy all the British shipping. On the 8th of August the French admiral entered the harbour as was proposed, but found himself unable to do any material damage, Lord Howe, however, instantly set sail for Rhode island; and d’Eftaing, confiding in his superiority, immediately came out of the harbour to attack him. A violent storm parted the two fleets, and did so much damage that they were rendered totally
unfit for action. The French, however, suffered moft; and several of their ships being afterwards attacked fingly by the British, very narrowly escaped being taken. On the aoth of August he returned to New port in a very shattered condition; and, not thinking himself safe there, failed two days after for Boston. General Sullivan had landed in the mean time on the northern part of Rhode Island with ten thou. sand men.
On the 17th of Auguft they began their operations by erecting batteries, and making their approaches to the British lines. But General Pigot, who commanded in Newport, had taken fuch effectual care to secure himself on the land-fide, that without the affiftance of a marine force it was altogether impossible to attack him with any probabi. lity of success. The conduct of d'Estaing, therefore, in abandoning them when master of the harbour, gave the greatest disguft to the people of New England, and General Sullivan began to think of a retreat. On perceiving his intentions, the garrison sallied out upon him with so much vigour, that it was not without difficulty that he effected his retreat. He had not been long gone when Sir Henry Clinton arrived with a body of four thousand men ; which, had it arrived sooner, would have enabled the British commander to have gained a decisive advantage over him, as well as to have destroyed the town of Providence, which, by its vicinity to Rhode Iíland, and the enterprises which were continually projected and carried on in that place, kept the inhabitants of Rhode Island in continual alarms.
The first British expedition was to Buzzard's Bay, on the coast of New England and neighbourhood of Rhode Isand. Here they destroyed a great number of privateers and merchantmen, magazines, with ftorehouses, &c.; whence proceeding to a fertile and populous island called Martha's Vineyard, they carried off ten thousand sheep and three hundred black cattle. Another expedition took place up the North River, under Lord Cornwallis and General Knyphausen ; the principal event of which was the destruction of a regiment of American cavalry, known by the name of Washington's Light Horse. A third expedition was directed to Little Egg Harbour in New Jersey, a place noted for privateers, the destruction of which was its principal intention. It was conducted by Captains Ferguson and Collins, and ended in the destruction of the enemy's vessels, as well as of the place itself. At the same time part of another body of American troops, called Pulaski's Legion, was surprized, and a great number of them put to the sword.
The Americans had, in the beginning of the year, projected the conquest of West Florida; and Captain Willing, with a party of reso
had made successful incurfion into the country. This VOL.I. 3?
awakened the attention of the British to the southern colonies, and an cxpedition against them was resolved on. Georgia was the place of destination; and the more effectually to ensure success, Colonel Campbell, with a sufficient force, under convoy of some ships of war, commanded by Commodore Hyde Parker, embarked at New York, while General Prevost, who commanded in East Florida, was directed to set out with all the force he could spare. The armament from New York arrived off the coast of Georgia in the month of December; and though the enemy were very Atrongly posted in an advantageous fituation on the shore, the British troops made good their landing, and advanced towards Savannah the capital of the province. That very day they defeated the force of the provincials which opposed them; and took porsession of the town with such celerity, that the Americans had not time to execute a resolution they had taken of setting it on fire. In ten days the whole province of Georgia was reduced, Sunbury alone excepted; and this was also brought under subjection by General Prevost in his march north wards. Every method was taken to secure the tranquillity of the country; and rewards were offered for apprehending committee or afsembly men or such as they judged most inimical to the British interests. On the arrival of General Prevost, the command of the troops naturally devolved on him as the senior officer; and the conquest of Carolina was next projected.
In this attempt there was no fmall probability of success. The country contained a great number of friends to the British government, who now eagerly embraced the opportunity of declaring themselves; many of the inhabitants of Georgia had joined the royal ftandard ; and there was not in the province any confiderable body of provincial forces capable of opposing the efforts of regular and well disciplined troops. On the first news of General Prevost's approach, the loyalitts assembled in a body, imagining themselves able to stand their ground until their allies should arrive; but in this they were disappointed. The Americans attacked and defeated them with the loss of half their number, The remainder retreated into Georgia ; and after undergoing many difficulties, at last effected a junction with the British forces.
In the mean time, General Lincoln, with a considerable body of American troops, had encamped within twenty miles of the town of Savannah; and another strong party had pofted themselves at a place called Briar's Creek, farther up the river of the fame name. Thus the extent of the British government was likely to be circumscribed within
very bounds. General Prevost therefore determined to dislodge the party at Briar's Creek: and the latter, trusting to their strong situation, and being
remiss in their guard, suffered themselves to be surprised on the 30th of March 1779; when they were utterly routed, with the loss of four hundred killed and taken, besides a great number drowned in the river or the swamps. The whole artillery, stores, baggage, and almost all the arms, of this unfortunate party were taken, so that they could no more make any stand; and thus the province of Georgia was once more freed from the enemy, and a communication opened with those places in Carolina where the royalists chiefly resided.
The victory at Briar's Creek proved of confiderable service to the British cause. Great numbers of the loyalists joined the army,
and derably increased its force. Hence General Prevost was enabled to stretch his posts farther up the river, and to guard all the principal passes : so that General Lincoln was reduced to a state of inaction ; and at last moved ff towards Augusta, in order to protect the provincial assembly, which was obliged to fit in that place, the capital being now in the hands of the British.
Lincoln had no fooner quitted his post, than it was judged a proper time by the British general to put in execution the grand scheme which had been meditated against Carolina. Many difficulties indeed lay in
The river Savannah was so swelled by the excessive rains of the season, that it seemed impassable; the opposite shore, for a great way,
was so full of swamps and marshes, that no army could march over it without the greatest difficulty; and, to render the passage still more difficult, General Moultrie was left with a considerable body of troops in order to oppose the enemy's attempts. But in spite of every oppofition, the constancy and perseverance of the British forces at last prevailed. General Moultrie was defeated, and obliged to retire towards Charlestown; and the victorious army, after having waded through the marshes for some time, at last arrived in an open country, through which they pursued their march with great rapidity towards the capital; while General Lincoln remained in a state of security at Augufta, ima. gining that the obstacles he had left in the way could not be sure mounted.
Certain intelligence of the danger to which Charlestown was exposed, however, aroused the American general from his lethargy. A chosen body of infantry, mounted on horseback for the greater expedition, was difpatched before him; while Lincoln himself followed with all the forces he could collect. General Moultrie too, with the troops he had brought from the Savannah, and some others he had collected since his retreat from thence, had taken poffeffion of all the avenues leading to Charlestown, and prepared for a vigorous defence. But all opposition proved
3 2 2