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One great object of the British force in Virginia was 1781. the establishment of a strong post and place of arms, which by embracing some good harbour, or commanding one of the great navigable rivers, should equally facilitate future hostile operations whether by fea or land; and which, beside giving an opportunity for distressing the country, if the reduction of it could not be effected, , should afford such a station for the British feets, and cruisers, as would render them entirely masters of Chesapeak bay. But the utility of such a post was neceffarily founded on the confidence of a constant naval fuperiority, as well as of its being defensible by a moderate force on the land side. Upon a personal examination of Portsmouth, lord Cornwallis discovered it to be totally incompetent to the purpose of the intended post. Point Comfort was thought to be no less' defective. York Town lying on the river of that name, and on the narrowest part of the peninsula between York and James rivers, where it is about five miles over; and Gloucester Point on the north and opposite side, and projecting so far into the river, that the distance between both is not much above a mile, afforded the only remaining choice. They entirely commanded the navigation of the river, which is so deep at this place, as' to admit of ships of great fize and burden: but then they required the whole force that Cornwallis possessed to render them effective. His lordship gave the preference to them; and repaired with his army in August to the peninsula. He applied hirnself with the utmost diligence to fortify these posts, and to render them equally respectable by land and
His whole force amounted to about 7000 excellent troops. Before his lordship had fixed himself and
1781. army in these posts, a series of manoeuvres had taken
place between him and the marquis de la Fayette; in which the British general displayed the boldness of enterprise, and the marquis the judgment of age, blended with the ardor of youth. Fayette, under various pretences, sent the Pennsylvania troops to the south side of James river ; collected a force in Gloucester county; and made sundry excellent arrangements, which he early communicated to de Graffe by an oficer.
• The French and American armies continued their march from the northward, till they arrived at the Head of Elk: within an hour after, they received an express from count de Grasse, with the joyful account of his arrival and situation. This circumstance will appear the more remarkable, when we consider the original distance of the parties, as well from the scene of action as from each other, and the various accidents, difficulties and delays, to which they were all liable. The greatest harmony subsisted between Washington and Rochambeau, which lefsened some of the difficulties attending their joint operations. The former being without a sufficiency of money to supply his troops, applied to the count for a loan, which was instantly granted. In order to haften the arrival of the allied troops, de Graffe selected seven vessels, drawing the least water, to transport them down Chesapeak Bay. But the moment they were ready to fail on this service, the count was obliged to prepare for repelling the British fleet. When Mr. de Barras arrived, he sent up those transports he brought with him
for the troops : de Graffe after that added to them as Sept. 25. many frigates as he could *. By the 25th of September * Count de Graffe's letter of September 13, 1781.
all the troops were arrived and landed at Williamsburgh, 1781.
All the American and French troops formed a junction at Williamsburgh. The marquis de la Fayette had been joined by 3000 under St. Simon fome days before the 25th. The whole regular force thus collected amounted to between 11 and 12,000 men. The militia of Virginia were also called out to service, and were commanded by gov. Nelson. On the 27th Washington gave out in general orders-" If the enemy should be tempted to meet the army on its march, the general particularly enjoins the troops to place their principal reliance on the bayonet, that they may prove the vanity of the boast which the British make of their peculiar prowess in deciding battles with that weapon.” The next morning the army marched, and halted about two miles from
York Town just before sun set. The officers and sol
diers were ordered to lie on their arms the whole night. Sept. 30.
On the 30th, col. Scammell (being officer of the day) in approaching the enemy's outer works, to see if they had really left them, was mortally wounded and taken prisoner by a party of the enemy's horse, which lay secreted. This day lord Cornwallis was closely invested in York Town. The French extended from the river above the town to a morass in the centre, where they were met by the Americans, who occupied the opposite fide from the river to that spot. The post at Gloucester Point was, at the same time, invested by the duke de Lauzun with his legion, and a number of Virginia militia under
Weedon. Before the troops left Williamsburgh, Washington received a letter from de Graffe, informing him, that in case of the appearance of a British Aeet, the count conceived it to be his duty to go out and meet them at sea, instead of fighting in a confined situation. This information exceedingly alarmed the general, who instantly saw the probability of the British feet's manouvring in such manner, as to reinforce or withdraw lord Cornwallis. . To prevent a measure pregnant with fo much evil, his excellency wrote to the count on the 26th-" I am unable to describe the painful anxiety under which I have labored since the reception of your letter of the 23d instant. It obliges me warmly to urge a perseverance in the plan agreed upon. The attempt upah York, under the protection of your shipping, is as certain of success as a superior force and a superiority of measures can render any military operation. The capture of the British army is a matter so important in
itself and in its consequences, that it must greatly tend 1781. to bring an end to the war.-If your excellency quits the Bay, an access is open to relieve York, of which the enemy will instantly avail themselves. The confequence of this will be, not only the disgrace, but the probable disbanding of the whole army; for the present seat of war being such, as absolutely precludes the use of waggons, from the great number of large rivers which intersect the country, there will be a total want of provisions. This province has been so exhausted, that subsistence must be drawn from a distance, and that can only be done by a superior fleet in the Bay. I earnestly beg your excellency to consider, that if by moving your fleet from the situation agreed upon, we lose the present opportunity, we fhall never hereafter have it in our power to strike so decisive a stroke, and the period of an honorable peace will be further distant than ever.--Supposing the force, said to have arrived under adm. Digby, to be true, their whole force united cannot be such as to give them any hope of success in the attacking your feet.— I am to press your excellency to perfevere in the scheme so happily. concerted between us. Permit me to add, that the absence of your fleet from the Bay may frustrate our design upon the garrison at York. For, in the present situation, lord Cornwallis might evacuate the place with the loss of his artillery, baggage, and a few men-sacrifices, which would be highly justifiable, from the desire of saving the body of the army. The marquis de la Fayette carries this. He is not to pass the Cape for fear of accident, in case you should be at sea.” This letter, with the marquis's per, suasions, had the desired effect; and the same hour