Part 6 out of 6
up with him, and after a sharp action the Americans were entirely
defeated. One hundred and thirteen were killed on the spot and 207
made prisoners, of whom 103 were badly wounded.
For some months the irregular operations were continued, the
Americans making frequent incursions into the Carolinas. The British
troops suffered greatly from the extreme heat and the unhealthiness
of the climate.
In August the American General Gates advanced toward Camden, and Lord
Cornwallis also moved out to that town, which was held by a British
garrison. The position there was not hopeful. Nearly 800 were sick,
and the total number of effectives was under 2000, of whom 500 were
provincials. The force under General Gates amounted to 6000 men,
exclusive of the corps of Colonel Sumpter, 1000 strong, which were
maneuvering to cut off the English retreat. Cornwallis could not fall
back on Charleston without abandoning the sick and leaving all his
magazines and stores in the hands of the enemy, besides which a
retreat would have involved the abandonment of the whole State with
the exception of Charleston. He therefore decided upon giving battle
to the enemy, who were posted at Rugeley's Mills, a few miles
distant, leaving the defense of Camden to Major M'Arthur, with some
provincials and convalescent soldiers and a detachment of the
Sixty-third Regiment, which was expected to arrive during the night.
The army marched in the following order: The first division,
commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Webster, consisting of four companies
of light infantry and the Twenty-third and Thirty-third regiments,
preceded by an advanced guard of 40 cavalry. The second division,
consisting of provincial troops and two battalions of the
Seventy-first Regiment, followed as a reserve. The dragoons of the
legion formed the rear guard. The force marched at ten o'clock on the
night of August 16, intending to attack at daybreak the next morning,
but it happened that at the very same hour in which the British set
out, General Gates, with his force, was starting from Rugeley's Mills
with the intention of attacking Camden in the morning.
At two o'clock in the night the advanced guards of the two armies met
and fired into each other. In the confusion some prisoners were taken
on both sides, and the generals, finding that the two armies were
face to face, halted and waited till morning. Lord Cornwallis placed
Webster's division on the right; the second division, which was under
the command of Lord Rawdon, on the left; the battalion known as the
Volunteers of Ireland were on the right of Lord Rawdon's division and
communicated with the Thirty-third Regiment on the left of Webster.
In the front line were two six-pounders and two three-pounders under
the command of Lieutenant Macleod, R. A. The Seventy-first, with two
six-pounders, was in reserve, one battalion being placed behind each
wing. The dragoons were held in reserve, to charge in the event of a
The flanks of the English position were covered by swamps, which
somewhat narrowed the ground and prevented the Americans from
utilizing fully their great superiority of numbers. The Americans
were also formed in two lines.
Soon after daybreak Lord Cornwallis ordered Colonel Webster to
advance and charge the enemy. So fiercely did the English regiments
attack that the Virginia and North Carolina troops who opposed them
quickly gave way, threw down their arms, and fled. General Gates and
General Casswell in vain attempted to rally them. They ran like a
torrent and spread through the woods in every direction. Lord Rawdon
began the action on the left with no less vigor and spirit than Lord
Cornwallis on the right, but here and in the center the contest was
more obstinately maintained by the Americans.
[Illustration: Plan of the Battle Fought Near Camden, August 16th,
Their reserves were brought up, and the artillery did considerable
execution. Their left flank was, however, exposed by the flight of
the troops of Carolina and Virginia, and the light infantry and
Twenty-third Regiment were halted in the pursuit, and, wheeling
around, came upon the flank of the enemy, who, after a brave
resistance of nearly three-quarters of an hour, were driven into
total confusion and forced to give way on both sides. Their rout was
continued by the cavalry, who continued their pursuit twenty-two
miles from the field of action.
Between eight and nine hundred of the enemy were killed and about
1000, many of whom were wounded, were taken prisoners. Among these
were Major General Baron de Kalb and Brigadier General Rutherford.
All the baggage, stores, and camp packages, a number of colors, and
several pieces of cannon were taken. General Gates, finding himself
unable to rally the militia, fled first to Charlotte, 90 miles from
the seat of action, and then to Hillsborough, 180 from Camden.
General Gist, alone of all the American commanders, was able to keep
together about 100 men, who, flying across the swamp on their right,
through which they could not be pursued by the cavalry, made their
escape in a body. The loss of the British troops amounted to 69
killed, 245 wounded, and 11 missing. The loss of the Americans in
killed, wounded, and prisoners exceeded the number of British regular
troops engaged by at least 300. It was one of the most decisive
victories ever won.
IN AN AMERICAN PRISON.
Upon the morning after the victory of Camden Lord Cornwallis
dispatched Colonel Tarleton with the light infantry and the German
legion, 350 men in all, to attack Colonel Sumpter, who, with 800 men
and two pieces of cannon, had, upon hearing late at night of General
Gates' defeat, marched away at all speed. Thinking himself out of
danger he halted at midday to rest his men. The British came upon
them by surprise. One hundred and fifty were killed or wounded and
300 made prisoners. The rest scattered as fugitives. Two guns, one
thousand stand of arms, and all the stores and baggage were taken,
and 250 prisoners, some of them British soldiers and the rest loyal
militiamen, whom Sumpter had captured near Camden, were released.
Lord Cornwallis, after obtaining supplies for his troops and taking
steps for the pacification of the State, was about to move forward
into North Carolina, when he received news of the destruction of a
column under Major Fergusson. This officer, with a detachment of 150
British regulars and 800 provincials, was attacked by 5000 mounted
partisans, most of them border men accustomed to forest fighting.
Fergusson took up a position on a hill called King's Mountain. This
from its height would have been a good position for defense, but
being covered with wood it offered great opportunities for the
assailants, who dismounted and fought behind trees in accordance with
the tactics taught them in Indian warfare. Again and again the
English charged with the bayonet, each time driving their assailants
back, but these instantly recommenced their destructive fire from
their shelter behind the trees. In little over an hour from the
commencement of the fight 150 of the defenders were killed and many
more wounded. Still they repulsed every attack until their commander
fell dead; then the second in command, judging further resistance in
On the news of this misfortune Lord Cornwallis fell back, as the
western frontiers of South Carolina were now exposed to the
incursions of the band which had defeated Fergusson. In the retreat
the army suffered terribly. It rained for several days without
intermission. The soldiers had no tents, and the water was everywhere
over their shoes. The continued rains filled the rivers and creeks
prodigiously and rendered the roads almost impassable. The climate
was most unhealthy, and for many days the troops were without rum.
Sometimes the army had beef and no bread, sometimes bread and no
beef. For five days it was supported on Indian corn, which was
collected in the fields, five ears being served out as a daily
allowance to each two soldiers. They had to cook it as they could,
and this was generally done by parching it over the fire. One of the
officers of the quartermaster's department found some of the loyal
militia grating their corn. This was done by breaking up a canteen
and punching holes in the bottom with their bayonets, thus making a
kind of rasp. The idea was communicated to the adjutant general and
afterward adopted for the army.
The soldiers supported their hardships and privations cheerfully, as
their officers were no better provided than themselves and the fare
of Lords Cornwallis and Rawdon was the same as their own.
The toilsome march came to an end at last, and the army had rest
after its labors. The only other incident of importance which
occurred was an action between a force under Colonel Tarleton and one
of considerably superior strength under General Sumpter, strongly
posted on a commanding position. The British attack was repulsed, but
General Sumpter, being badly wounded, was carried off the field
during the night, and the force under his command at once dispersed.
No other event occurred, and the army passed its time in winter
quarters till the spring of 1781. During this winter the enemies of
Great Britain were re-enforced by the accession of the Dutch. At this
time the efforts which England was called upon to make were indeed
great. In Europe France, Spain, and Holland were banded against her;
in India our troops were waging a desperate war with Hyder Ali; while
they were struggling to retain their hold on their American colonies.
Here, indeed, the operations had for the last two years languished.
The re-enforcements which could be spared were extremely small, and
although the British had almost uniformly defeated the Americans in
every action in which there was any approach to equality between the
forces engaged, they were unable to do more than hold the ground on
which they stood. Victorious as they might be, the country beyond the
reach of their rifles swarmed with their enemies, and it became
increasingly clear to all impartial observers that it was impossible
for an army which in all did not amount to more than 20,000 men to
conquer a continent in arms against them.
Harold was not present at the later events of the campaign of 1780.
He and Jake had been with the column of Major Fergusson. Peter
Lambton had not accompanied him, having received a bullet wound in
the leg in a previous skirmish, which, although not serious, had
compelled him to lay up for a time.
"Me no like de look ob dis affair, Massa Harold," Jake said, as the
Americans opened fire upon the troops gathered at the top of King's
Mountain. "Dese chaps no fools; dey all backwoodsmen; dey know how to
fight de redskins; great hunters all ob dem."
"Yes," Harold agreed, "they are formidable opponents, Jake. I do not
like the look of things. These men are all accustomed to fighting in
the woods, while our men have no idea of it. Their rifles are
infinitely superior to these army muskets, and every man of them can
hit a deer behind the shoulder at the distance of 150 yards, while at
that distance most of our men would miss a haystack."
The scouts and a few of the provincials who had been accustomed to
forest warfare, took up their position behind trees and fought the
advancing enemy in their own way. The mass of the defenders, however,
were altogether puzzled by the stealthy approach of their foes, who
advanced from tree to tree, seldom showing as much as a limb to the
fire of the defenders, and keeping up a deadly fire upon the crowd of
Had there been time for Major Fergusson, before being attacked, to
have felled a circle of trees and made a breastwork round the top of
the hill, the result might have been different. Again and again the
British gallantly charged down with the bayonet, but the assailants,
as they did so, glided away among the trees after firing a shot or
two into the advancing troops, and retreated a hundred yards or so,
only to recommence their advance as soon as the defenders retired
again to their position. The loss of the assailants was very slight,
the few who fell being for the most part killed by the rifles of the
"It am no use, Massa Harold," Jake said. "Jest look how dem poor
fellows am being shot down. It's all up wid us dis time."
When upon the fall of Major Fergusson his successor in command
surrendered the post, the defenders were disarmed. The Kentucky men,
accustomed only to warfare against Indians, had no idea of the usages
of war and treated the prisoners with great brutality. Ten of the
loyalist volunteers of Carolina they hung at once upon trees. There
was some discussion as to the disposal of the rest. The border men,
having accomplished their object, were anxious to disperse at once to
their homes. Some of them proposed that they should rid themselves of
all further trouble by shooting them all. This was overruled by the
majority. Presently the prisoners were all bound, their hands being
tied behind them, and a hundred of the border men surrounded them and
ordered them to march across the country.
Jake and several other negroes who were among the captives were
separated from the rest, and, being put up at auction, were sold as
slaves. Jake fell to the bid of a tall Kentuckian who, without a
word, fastened a rope round his neck, mounted his horse, and started
for his home. The guards conducted the white prisoners to Woodville,
eighty miles from the scene of the fight. This distance was
accomplished in two days' march. Many of the unfortunate men, unable
to support the fatigue, fell and were shot by their guards; the rest
struggled on, utterly exhausted, until they arrived at Woodville,
where they were handed over to a strong force of militia gathered
there. They were now kindly treated, and by more easy marches were
taken to Richmond, in Virginia, where they were shut up in prison.
Here were many English troops, for the Americans, in spite of the
terms of surrender, had still retained as prisoners the troops of
Several weeks passed without incident. The prisoners were strongly
guarded and were placed in a building originally built for a jail and
surrounded by a very high wall. Harold often discussed with some of
his fellow-captives the possibility of escape. The windows were all
strongly barred, and even should the prisoners break through these
they would only find themselves in the courtyard. There would then be
a wall thirty feet high to surmount, and at the corners of this wall
the Americans had built sentry-boxes, in each of which two men were
stationed night and day. Escape, therefore, seemed next to
The sentries guarding the prison and at the gates were furnished by
an American regiment stationed at Richmond. The wardens in the prison
were, for the most part, negroes. The prisoners were confined at
night in separate cells; in the daytime they were allowed, in parties
of fifty, to walk for two hours in the courtyard. There were several
large rooms in which they sat and took their meals, two sentries with
loaded muskets being stationed in each room. Thus, although
monotonous, there was little to complain of; their food, if coarse,
was plentiful, and the prisoners passed the time in talk, playing
cards, and in such games as their ingenuity could invent.
One day when two of the negro wardens entered with, the dinners of
the room to which Harold belonged, the latter was astounded at
recognizing in one of them his faithful companion Jake. It was with
difficulty that he suppressed an exclamation of gladness and
surprise. Jake paid no attention to him, but placed the great tin
dish heaped up with yams, which he was carrying, upon the table, and,
with an unmoved face, left the room. A fortnight passed without a
word being exchanged between them. Several times each day Harold saw
the negro, but the guards were always present, and although, when he
had his back to the latter, Jake sometimes indulged in a momentary
grin or a portentous wink, no further communication passed between
One night at the end of that time Harold, when on the point of going
to sleep, thought he heard a noise as of his door gently opening. It
was perfectly dark, and, after listening for a moment he laid his
head down again, thinking that he had been mistaken, when he heard
close to the bed the words in a low voice:
"Am you asleep, Massa Harold?"
"No, Jake," he exclaimed directly. "Ah, my good fellow! how have you
"Dat were a bery easy affair," Jake said. "Me tell you all about it."
"Have you shut the door again, Jake? There is a sentry coming along
the passage every five minutes."
"Me shut him, massa, but dere aint no fastening on dis side, so Jake
will sit down wid him back against him."
Harold got up and partly dressed himself and then sat down by the
side of his follower.
"No need to whisper," Jake said. "De walls and de doors bery thick;
no one hear. But de sentries on de walls hear if we talk too loud."
The windows were without glass, which was in those days an expensive
article in America, and the mildness of the climate of Virginia
rendered glass a luxury rather than a necessity. Confident that even
the murmur of their voices would not be overheard if they spoke in
their usual way, Jake and Harold were enabled to converse
"Well, massa," Jake said, "my story am not a long one. Dat man dat
bought me he rode in two days someting like one hundred miles. It wor
a lucky ting dat Jake had tramp on his feet de last four years, else
soon enough he tumble down, and den de rope round him neck hang him.
Jake awful footsore and tired when he git to de end ob dat journey.
De Kentucky man he lib in a clearing not far from a village. He had
two oder slaves; dey hoe de ground and work for him. He got grown-up
son, who look after dem while him fader away fighting. Dey not afraid
ob de niggers running away, because dere plenty redskin not far away,
and nigger scalp jest as good as white man's. De oder way dere wor
plenty ob villages, and dey tink nigger git caught for sure if he try
to run away. Jake make up his mind he not stop dere bery long. De
Kentuckian was a bery big, strong man, but not so strong as he was
ten years ago, and Jake tink he more dan a match for him. Jake pretty
strong himself, massa?"
"I should think you were, Jake," Harold said. "There are not many
men, white or black, who can lift as great a weight as you can."
"For a week Jake work bery hard. Dat Kentuckian hab a way ob always
carrying his rifle about on his arm, and as long as he do dat dere no
chance ob a fair fight. De son he always hab a stick, and he mighty
free wid it. He hit Jake seberal times, and me say to him once,
'Young man, you better mind what you do.' Me suppose dat he not like
de look dat I gib him. He speak to his fader, and he curse and swear
awful, and stand wid de rifle close by and tell dat son ob his to
larrup Jake. Dat he do, massa, for some time. Jake not say noting,
but he make a note ob de affair in his mind. De bery next day de son
go away to de village to buy some tings he want. De fader he come out
and watch me at work; he curse and swear as usual; he call me lazy
hound and swear he cut de flesh from my back; presently he come quite
close and shake him fist in Jake's face. Dat was a foolish ting to
do. So long as he keep bofe him hands on de gun he could say what he
like quite safe, but when he got one hand up lebel wid Jake's nose,
dat different ting altogether. Jake throw up his hand and close wid
him. De gun tumble down and we wrastle and fight. He strong man for
sure, but Jake jest a little stronger. We roll ober and ober on de
ground for some minutes; at last Jake git de upper hand and seize de
white man by de t'roat, and he pretty quick choke him life out. Den
he pick up de gun and wait for de son; when he come back he put a
bullet t'rough him. Den he go to de hut and git food and powder and
ball and start into de woods. De oder niggers dey take no part in de
affair. Dey look on while the skirmish lasts, but not interfere one
way or oder. When it ober me ask dem if dey like to go wid me, but
dey too afraid ob de redskins; so Jake start by himse'f. Me hab
plenty ob practice in de woods and no fear ob meeting redskins,
except when dey on de warpath. De woods stretch a bery long way all
ober de country, and Jake trabel in dem for nigh t'ree weeks. He
shoot deer and manage bery well; see no redskin from the first day to
de last; den he come out into de open country again, hundreds ob
miles from de place where he kill dat Kentuckian. He leab his gun
behind now and trabel for Richmond, where he hear dat de white
prisoners was kept. He walk all night and at day sleep in de woods or
de plantations, and eat ears ob corn. At last he git to Richmond. Den
he gib out dat him massa wanted him to fight on de side ob de English
and dat he run away. He go to de prison and offer to work dere. Dey
tink him story true, and as he had no massa to claim him dey say he
State property, and work widout wages like de oder niggers here; dey
all forfeited slaves whose massas had jined de English. Dese people
so pore dey can't afford to pay white man, so dey take Jake as
warden, and by good luck dey put him in to carry de dinner to de bery
room where Massa Harold was."
"And have you the keys to lock us up?"
"No, massa, de niggers only cook de dinners and sweep de prison and
de yard, and do dat kind ob job; de white wardens--dere's six ob
dem--dey hab de keys."
"Then how did you manage to get here, Jake?"
"Dat not bery easy matter, Massa Harold. Most ob de wardens drink
like fish; but de head man, him dat keep de keys, he not drink. For
some time Jake not see him way, but one night when he lock up de
prisoners he take Jake round wid him, and Jake carried de big bunch
ob keys--one key to each passage. When he lock up de doors here and
hand de key to Jake to put on de bunch agin, Jake pull out a hair ob
him head and twist it round de ward ob de key so as to know him agin.
Dat night me git a piece ob bread and work him up wid some oil till
he quite like putty, den me steal to de chief warden's room, and dere
de keys hang up close to him bed. Jake got no shoes on, and he stole
up bery silent. He take down de bunch ob keys and carry dem off. He
git to quiet place and strike a light, and search t'rough de keys
till he find de one wid de hair round it; den he take a deep
impression ob him wid de bread; den he carry back the keys and hang
'em up. Jake not allowed to leabe de prison. We jest as much
prisoners as de white men, so he not able to go out to git a key
made; but in de storeroom dere's all sorts ob tools, and he git hold
ob a fine file; den he look about among de keys in de doors ob all de
storerooms and places which wor not kept locked up. At last he find a
key jest de right size, and dough de wards were a little different
dey was ob de right shape. Jake set to work and filled off de knobs
and p'ints which didn't agree wid de shape in de bread. Dis morning,
when you was all out in de yard, me come up quietly and tried de key
and found dat it turned de lock quite easy. Wid a fedder and some oil
me oil de lock and de key till it turned widout making de least,
noise. Den to-night me waited till de sentry come along de corridor,
and den Jake slip along and here he is."
"Capital, Jake!" Harold said. "And now what is the next thing to do?
Will it be possible to escape through the prison?"
"No, Massa Harold, dere am t'ree doors from de prison into de yard
and dere's a sentry outside ob each, and de main guard ob twenty men
are down dere, too. No possible to git out ob doors widout de alarm
"With the file, Jake, we might cut through the bars."
"We might cut t'rough de bars and git down into de courtyard; dat
easy enough, massa. Jake could git plenty ob rope from de storeroom,
but we hab de oder wall to climb."
"You must make a rope-ladder for that, Jake."
"What sort ob a ladder dat, massa?"
Harold explained to him how it should be made.
"When you have finished it, Jake, you should twist strips of any sort
of stuff, cotton or woolen, round and round each of the wooden steps,
so that it will make no noise touching the wall as we climb it. Then
we want a grapnel."
"Me no able to make dat, massa."
"Not a regular grapnel, Jake, but you might manage something which
"What sort ob ting?" Jake asked.
Harold sat for some time in thought.
"If the wall were not so high it would be easy enough, Jake, for we
could do it by fastening the rope within about three inches of the
end of a pole six feet long and three inches thick. That would never
pull over the wall, but it is too high to throw the pole over."
"Jake could t'row such a stick as dat ober easy enough, massa--no
difficulty about dat; but me no see how a stick like dat balance
"It would not balance it, Jake, but the pull would be a side pull and
would not bring the stick over the wall. If it were only bamboo it
would be heavy enough."
"Bery well, Massa Harold; if you say so, dat's all right. Jake can
git de wood easy enough; dere's plenty ob pieces among de firewood
dat would do for us."
"Roll it with strips of stuff the same way as the ladder steps, so as
to prevent it making a noise when it strikes the wall. In addition to
the ladder we shall want a length of rope long enough to go from this
window to the ground, and another length of thin rope more than twice
the height of the wall."
"Bery well, Massa Harold, me understand exactly what's wanted; but
it'll take two or t'ree days to make de ladder, and me can only work
ob a night." being caught. We must choose a dark and windy night.
Bring two files with you, so that we can work together, and some
"All right, massa. Now me go."
"Shut the door quietly, Jake, and do not forget to lock it behind
you," Harold said, as Jake stole noiselessly from the cell.
A week passed without Jake's again visiting Harold's cell. On the
seventh night the wind had got up and whistled around the jail, and
Harold, expecting that Jake would take advantage of the opportunity,
sat down on his bed without undressing, and awaited his coming. It
was but half an hour after the door had been locked for the night
that it quietly opened again.
"Here me am, sar, wid eberyting dat's wanted; two files and some oil,
de rope-ladder, de short rope for us to slide down, and de long thin
rope and de piece ob wood six feet long and thick as de wrist."
They at once set to work with the files, and in an hour had sawn
through two bars, making a hole sufficiently wide for them to pass.
The rope was then fastened to a bar, Harold took off his shoes and
put them in his pocket and then slid down the rope into the
courtyard. With the other rope Jake lowered the ladder and pole to
him and then slid down himself. Harold had already tied to the pole,
at four inches from one end, a piece of rope some four feet long, so
as to form a loop about half that length. The thin rope was put
through the loop and drawn until the two ends came together.
Noiselessly they stole across the yard until they reached the
opposite wall. The night was a very dark one, and although they could
make out the outline of the wall above them against the skyline, the
sentry-boxes at the corners were invisible. Harold now took hold of
the two ends of the rope, and Jake, stepping back a few yards from
the wall, threw the pole over it. Then Harold drew upon the rope
until there was a check, and he knew that the pole was hard up
against the edge of the wall. He tied one end of the rope-ladder to
an end of the double cord and then hauled steadily upon the other.
The rope running through the loop drew the ladder to the top of the
wall. All this was done quickly and without noise.
"Now, Jake, do you go first," Harold said. "I will hold the rope
tight below, and do you put part of your weight on it as you go up.
When you get to the top, knot it to the loop and sit on the wall
until I come up."
In three minutes they were both on the wall, the ladder was hauled up
and dropped on the outside, while the pole was shifted to the inside
of the wall; then they descended the ladder and made across the
"Which way we go, massa?" Jake asked.
"I have been thinking it over," Harold replied, "and have decided on
making for the James River. We shall be there before morning and can
no doubt find a boat. We can guide ourselves by the stars, and when
we get into the woods the direction of the wind will be sufficient."
The distance was about twenty miles, but although accustomed to
scouting at night, they would have had difficulty in making their way
through the woods by morning had they not struck upon a road leading
in the direction in which they wanted to go.
Thus it was still some hours before daylight when they reached the
James River. They had followed the road all the way, and at the point
where it reached the bank there was a village of considerable size,
and several fishermen's boats were moored alongside. Stepping into
one of these, they unloosed the head-rope and pushed out into the
stream. The boat was provided with a sail. The mast was soon stepped
and the sail hoisted.
Neither Harold nor Jake had had much experience in boat-sailing, but
the wind was with them and the boat ran rapidly down the river, and
before daylight they were many miles from their point of starting.
The banks of the James River are low and swampy, and few signs of
human habitation were seen from the stream. It widened rapidly as
they descended and became rougher and rougher. They therefore steered
into a sheltered spot behind a sharp bend of the river and anchored.
In the locker they found plenty of lines and bait, and, setting to
work, had soon half a dozen fine fish at the bottom of the boat. They
pulled up the kedge and rowed to shore and soon made a fire, finding
flint and steel in the boat. The fish were broiled over the fire upon
sticks. The boat was hauled in under some overhanging bushes, and,
stretching themselves in the bottom, Harold and Jake were soon fast
The sun was setting when they woke.
"What you going to do, sar?" Jake asked. "Are you tinking ob
trabeling by land or ob sailing to New York?"
"Neither, Jake," Harold answered. "I am thinking of sailing down the
coast inside the line of keys to Charleston. The water there is
comparatively smooth, and as we shall be taken for fishermen it is
not likely that we shall be overhauled. We can land occasionally and
pick a few ears of corn to eat with our fish, and as there is
generally a breeze night and morning, however still and hot the day,
we shall be able to do it comfortably. I see that there is an iron
plate here which has been used for making a fire and cooking on
board, so we will lay in a stock of dry wood before we start."
The journey was made without any adventure. While the breeze lasted
they sailed; when it fell calm they fished, and when they had
obtained a sufficient supply for their wants they lay down and slept
under the shade of their sail stretched as an awning. Frequently they
passed within hail of other fishing-boats, generally manned by
negroes. But beyond a few words as to their success, no questions
were asked. They generally kept near the shore, and when they saw any
larger craft they either hauled the boat up or ran into one of the
creeks in which the coast abounds. It was with intense pleasure that
at last they saw in the distance the masts of the shipping in
Two hours later they landed. They fastened the boat to the wharf and
made their way into the town unquestioned. As they were walking along
the principal street they saw a well-known figure sauntering
leisurely toward them. His head was bent down and he did not notice,
them until Harold hailed him with a shout of "Halloo, Peter, old
fellow! How goes it?"
Peter, although not easily moved or excited, gave a yell of delight
which astonished the passers-by.
"Ah, my boy!" he exclaimed, "this is a good sight for my old eyes.
Here have I been a-fretting and a-worrying myself for the last three
months, and cussing my hard luck that I was not with you in that
affair on King's Mountain. At first, when I heard of it, I says to
myself, 'The young un got out of it somehow. He aint going to be
caught asleep.' Waal, I kept on hoping and hoping you'd turn up, till
at last I couldn't deceive myself no longer and was forced to
conclude that you'd either been rubbed out or taken prisoner. About a
month ago we got from the Yankees a list of the names of them they'd
captured, and glad I was to see yours among 'em. As I thought as how
you weren't likely to be out as long as the war lasted, I was
a-thinking of giving it up and going to Montreal and settling down
there. It was lonesome like without you, and I missed Jake's laugh,
and altogether things didn't seem natural like. Jake, I'm glad to see
ye. Your name was not in the list, but I thought it likely enough
they might have taken you and set you to work, and made no account of
"That is just what they did; but he got away after settling his score
with his new master, and then made for Richmond, where I was in
prison; then he got me loose, and here we are. But it is a long
story, and I must tell it you at leisure."
THE WAR IN SOUTH CAROLINA.
The fishing-boat was disposed of for a few pounds, and Harold and
Jake were again fitted out in the semi-uniform worn by the scouts. On
December 13, the very day after their arrival, a considerable
detachment of troops, under General Leslie, arrived, and on the 19th
marched, 1500 strong, to join Lord Cornwallis. Harold and his mates
accompanied them, and the united army proceeded northwest, between
the Roanoke and Catawba rivers. Colonel Tarleton was detached with a
force of 1000 men, consisting of light and German legion infantry, a
portion of the Seventh Regiment and of the first battalion of the
Seventy-first, 350 cavalry, and two field-pieces. His orders were to
pursue and destroy a force of some 800 of the enemy under General
Morgan. The latter, finding himself pressed, drew up his troops for
action near a place called the Cowpens. Then ensued the one action in
the whole war in which the English, being superior in numbers,
suffered a severe defeat.
Tarleton, confident of victory, led his troops to the attack without
making any proper preparations for it. The infantry advanced bravely,
and, although the American infantry held the ground for a time with
great obstinacy, they drove them back and the victory appeared to be
theirs. Tarleton now sent orders to his cavalry to pursue, as his
infantry were too exhausted, having marched at a rapid pace all
night, to do so. The order was not obeyed, and Major Washington, who
commanded the American cavalry, advanced to cover his infantry. These
rallied behind their shelter and fell upon the disordered British
infantry. Thus suddenly attacked when they believed that victory was
in their hands, the English gave way and were driven back. A panic
seized them and a general rout ensued. Almost the whole of them were
either killed or taken prisoners.
Tarleton in vain endeavored to induce his German legion cavalry to
charge; they stood aloof and at last fled in a body through the
woods. Their commander and 14 officers remained with Tarleton, and
with these and 40 men of the Seventeenth Regiment of dragoons he
charged the whole body of the American cavalry and drove them back
upon the infantry.
No partial advantage, however brilliant, could retrieve the
misfortune of the day. All was already lost, and Tarleton retreated
with his gallant little band to the main army under Lord Cornwallis,
twenty-five miles from the scene of action. The British infantry were
all killed, wounded, or taken prisoners, with the exception of a
small detachment which had been left in the rear, and who fell back
hastily as soon as the news of the result of the action reached them.
The legion cavalry returned to camp without the loss of a man.
The defeat at Cowpens had a serious influence on the campaign. It
deprived Lord Cornwallis of the greater portion of his light
infantry, who were of the greatest utility in a campaign in such a
country, while the news of the action had an immense influence in
raising the spirits of the colonists. Hitherto they had uniformly met
with ill success when they opposed the British with forces even
approaching an equality of strength. In spite of their superior arms
and superior shooting, they were unable to stand the charge of the
British infantry, who had come almost to despise them as foes in the
field. The unexpected success urged them to fresh exertions and
brought to their side vast numbers of waverers.
General Morgan, who was joined by General Greene, attempted to
prevent Cornwallis passing the fords of the Catawba. It was not till
February 1 that the river had fallen sufficiently to render a passage
possible. Colonel Webster was sent with his division to one of the
principal fords, with orders to open a cannonade there and make a
feint of crossing, while the general himself moved toward a smaller
and less-known ford. General Davidson, with 300 Americans, was
watching this point, but the brigade of guards were ordered to
commence the passage and were led by their light infantry companies
under Colonel Hall. The river was five hundred yards across, and the
stream so strong that the men, marching in fours, had to support one
another to enable them to withstand its force. The ford took a sharp
turn in the middle of the river.
The night being dark, the guards were not perceived until they had
reached this point, when the enemy immediately opened fire upon them.
The guide at once fled, without his absence being noticed until it
was too late to stop him. Colonel Hall, not knowing of the bend in
the ford, led his men straight forward toward the opposite bank, and
although their difficulties were much increased by the greater depth
of water through which they had to pass, the mistake was really the
means of saving them from much loss, as the Americans were assembled
to meet them at the head of the ford, and would have inflicted a
heavy loss upon them as they struggled in the stream. They did not
perceive the change in the direction of the column's march until too
late, and the guards, on landing, met them as they came on and
quickly routed and dispersed them. The British lost 4 killed, among
whom was Colonel Hall, and 36 wounded.
The rest of the division then crossed. Colonel Tarleton, with the
cavalry, was sent against 500 of the Americans who had fallen back
from the various fords, and, burning with the desire to retrieve the
defeat of the Cowpens, the legion horse charged the enemy with such
fury that they were completely routed, 50 of them being killed.
Morgan and Greene withdrew their army through the Roanoke River,
hotly pursued by the English. For a few days the British army
remained at Hillsborough, but no supplies of food sufficient for its
maintenance could be found there, so it again fell back. General
Greene, being re-enforced by a considerable force, now determined to
fight, and accordingly advanced and took up a position near Guilford
[Illustration: Battle of Guilford Fought on the 16th of March 1781.]
The American force consisted of 4243 infantry and some 3000
irregulars--for the most part backwoodsmen from the frontier--while
the British force amounted to 1445, exclusive of their cavalry, who,
however, took little part in the fight. About four miles from
Guilford the advanced guards of the army met and a sharp fight
ensued--the Americans, under Colonel Lee, maintaining their ground
stanchly until the Twenty-third Regiment came up to the assistance of
Tarleton, who commanded the advance.
The main American force was posted in an exceedingly strong position.
Their first line was on commanding ground, with open fields in front;
on their flanks were woods, and a strong fence ran along in front of
their line. The second line was posted in a wood three hundred yards
in rear of the first, while four hundred yards behind were three
brigades drawn up in the open ground round Guilford Court House.
Colonel Washington, with two regiments of dragoons and one of
riflemen, formed a reserve for the right flank; Colonel Lee, with his
command, was in reserve on the left.
As soon as the head of the British column appeared in sight two guns
upon the road opened fire upon them and were answered by the English
artillery. While the cannonade continued the British formed in order
of attack. The Seventy-first, with a provincial regiment, supported
by the first battalion of the guards, formed the right; the
Twenty-third and Thirty-third, led by Colonel Webster, with the
grenadiers and second battalion of guards, formed the left. The light
infantry of the guards and the cavalry were in reserve.
When the order was given to advance the line moved forward in perfect
steadiness, and at 150 yards the enemy opened fire. The English did
not fire a shot till within 80 yards, when they poured in a volley
and charged with the bayonet. The first line of the enemy at once
fell back upon the second; here a stout resistance was made. Posted
in the woods and sheltering themselves behind trees, they kept up for
some time a galling fire which did considerable execution. General
Leslie brought up the right wing of the first battalion of guards
into the front line and Colonel Webster called up the second
battalion. The enemy's second line now fell back on their third,
which was composed of their best troops, and the struggle was a very
The Americans, from their vastly superior numbers, occupied so long a
line of ground that the English commanders, in order to face them,
were obliged to leave large gaps between the different regiments.
Thus it happened that Webster, who with the Thirty-third Regiment,
the light infantry, and the second battalion of guards turned toward
the left, found himself separated from the rest of the troops by the
enemy, who pushed in between him and the Twenty-third. These again
were separated from the guards. The ground was very hilly, the wood
exceedingly thick, and the English line became broken up into
regiments separated from each other, each fighting on its own account
and ignorant of what was going on in other parts of the field.
The second battalion of guards was the first that broke through the
wood into the open grounds of Guilford Court House. They immediately
attacked a considerable force drawn up there, routed them, and took
their two cannon with them; but, pursuing them with too much ardor
and impetuosity toward the woods in the rear, were thrown into
confusion by a heavy fire from another body of troops placed there,
and being instantly charged by Washington's dragoons, were driven
back with great slaughter and the cannon were retaken.
At this moment the British guns, advancing along the road through the
wood, issued into the open and checked the pursuit of the Americans
by a well-directed fire. The Seventy-first and the Twenty-third now
came through the wood. The second battalion of guards rallied and
again advanced, and the enemy were quickly repulsed and put to
flight. The two guns were recaptured, with two others.
Colonel Webster, with the Thirty-third, returned across the ravine
through which he had driven the enemy opposed to him, and rejoined
the rest of the force. The Americans drew off in good order. The
Twenty-third and Twenty-first pursued with the cavalry for a short
distance and were then recalled. The fight was now over on the center
and left, but on the right heavy firing was still going on. Here
General Leslie, with the first battalion of guards and a Hessian
regiment, had been greatly impeded by the excessive thickness of the
woods, which rendered it impossible to charge with the bayonet. As
they struggled through the thicket the enemy swarmed around them, so
that they were at times engaged in front, flanks, and rear. The enemy
were upon an exceedingly steep rise, and lying along the top of this
they poured such a heavy fire into the guards that these suffered
exceedingly; nevertheless they struggled up to the top and drove the
front line back, but found another far more numerous drawn up behind.
As the guards struggled up to the crest they were received by a
tremendous fire on their front and flanks and suffered so heavily
that they fell into confusion. The Hessian regiment, which had
suffered but slightly, advanced in compact order to the left of the
guards, and, wheeling to the right, took the enemy in the flank with
a very heavy fire. Under cover of this the guards re-formed and moved
forward to join the Hessians and complete the repulse of the enemy
opposed to them. They were again attacked both in the flank and the
rear, but at last they completely dispersed the troops surrounding
them and the battle came to an end.
This battle was one of the most obstinate and well-contested
throughout the war, and the greatest credit is due to the British,
who drove the enemy, three times their own number, from the ground
chosen by them and admirably adapted to their mode of warfare.
The loss, as might have been expected, was heavy, amounting to 93
killed and 413 wounded--nearly a third of the force engaged. Between
two and three hundred of the enemy's dead were found on the field of
battle, and a great portion of their army was disbanded. The
sufferings of the wounded on the following night were great. A
tremendous rain fell, and the battle had extended over so large an
area that it was impossible to find and collect them. The troops had
had no food during the day and had marched several miles before they
came into action. Nearly 50 of the wounded died during the night.
Decisive as the victory was, its consequences were slight. Lord
Cornwallis was crippled by his heavy loss, following that which the
force had suffered at the Cowpens. The two battles had diminished the
strength of his little force by fully half. Provisions were difficult
to obtain, and the inhabitants, some of whom had suffered greatly
upon previous occasions for their loyal opinions, seeing the weakness
of the force and the improbability of its being enabled to maintain
itself, were afraid to lend assistance or to show their sympathy, as
they would be exposed on its retreat to the most cruel persecutions
by the enemy.
Three days after the battle Lord Cornwallis retired, leaving 70 of
the wounded, who were unable to move, under the protection of a flag
of truce. From Guilford Court House he moved his troops to
Wilmington, in North Carolina, a seaport where he hoped to obtain
provisions and stores, especially clothing and shoes.
General Greene, left unmolested after his defeat, reassembled his
army, and receiving re-enforcements, marched at full speed to attack
Lord Rawdon at Camden, thinking that he would, with his greatly
superior force, be able to destroy him in his isolated situation. The
English commander fortified his position and the American general
drew back and encamped on Hobkirk Hill, two miles distant, to await
the coming of his heavy baggage and cannon, together with some
re-enforcements. Lord Rawdon determined to take the initiative, and
marching out with his whole force of 900 men, advanced to the attack.
The hill was covered at its foot by a deep swamp, but the English
marched round this and stormed the position. The Americans made an
obstinate resistance, but the English climbed the hill with such
impetuosity, in spite of the musketry and grape-shot of the enemy,
that they were forced to give way. Several times they returned to the
attack, but were finally driven off in confusion. One hundred
prisoners were taken, and Lord Rawdon estimated that 400 of the enemy
were killed and wounded. The American estimate was considerably
lower, and as the Americans fought with all the advantage of
position, while the English were exposed during their ascent to a
terrible fire, which they were unable to return effectively, it is
probable that the American loss, including the wounded, was inferior
to that of the English, whose casualties amounted to 258.
Harold and his companions did not take part either in the battle of
Guilford Court House or in that of Hobkirk Hill, having been attached
to the fort known as Ninety-six, because a milestone with these
figures upon it stood in the village. The force here was under the
command of Lieutenant Colonel Cruger, who had with him 150 men of a
provincial corps known as Delancey's, 200 of the second battalion of
the New Jersey volunteers, and 200 local loyalists. The post was far
advanced, but so long as Lord Rawdon remained at Camden its position
was not considered to be dangerous. The English general, however,
after winning the battle of Hobkirk Hill, received news of the
retirement of Lord Cornwallis toward Wilmington, and seeing that he
would thereby be exposed to the whole of the American forces in South
Carolina and would infallibly be cut off from Charleston, he
determined to retire upon that port. Before falling back he sent
several messengers to Colonel Cruger, acquainting him of his
intention. But so well were the roads guarded by the enemy that none
of the messengers reached Ninety-six.
Colonel Cruger, being uneasy at the length of time which had elapsed
since he had received any communication, sent Harold and the two
scouts out with instructions to make their way toward the enemy's
lines and, if possible, to bring in a prisoner. This they had not
much difficulty in doing. Finding out the position of two parties of
the Americans, they placed themselves on the road between them. No
long time elapsed before an American officer came along. A shot from
Peter's rifle killed his horse, and before the officer could recover
his feet, he was seized by the scouts. They remained hidden in the
wood during the day and at night returned with their prisoner to
Ninety-six, thirty miles distant, avoiding all villages where
resistance could be offered by hostile inhabitants.
From the prisoner Colonel Cruger learned that Lord Rawdon had
retreated from Camden and that he was therefore entirely isolated.
The position was desperate, but he determined to defend the post to
the last, confident that Lord Rawdon would, as soon as possible,
undertake an expedition for his release.
The whole garrison was at once set to work, stockades were erected,
earthworks thrown up, a redoubt--formed of casks filled with
earth--constructed, and the whole strengthened by ditches and
abattis. Blockhouses were erected in the village to enable the troops
to fire over the stockades, and covered communications made between
various works. The right of the village was defended by a regular
work called the Star. To the left was a work commanding a rivulet
from which the place drew its supply of water.
Colonel Cruger offered the volunteers, who were a mounted corps,
permission to return to Charleston, but they refused to accept the
offer, and, turning their horses into the woods, determined to share
the fate of the garrison. In making this offer the colonel was
influenced partly by motives of policy, as the stock of provisions
was exceedingly scanty, and he feared that they would not last if the
siege should be a long one. Besides this, he feared that, as had
already too often happened, should the place fall, even the solemn
engagement of the terms of the surrender would not be sufficient to
protect the loyalists against the vengeance of their countrymen.
On May 21 General Greene, with his army, appeared in sight of the
place and encamped in a wood within cannon-shot of the village. He
lost no time, and in the course of the night threw up two works
within seventy paces of the fortifications. The English commander did
not suffer so rash and disdainful a step to pass unpunished. The
scouts, who were outside the works, brought in news of what was being
done, and also that the working parties were protected by a strong
The three guns which constituted the entire artillery of the
defenders were moved noiselessly to the salient angle of the Star
opposite the works, and at eleven o'clock in the morning these
suddenly opened fire, aided by musketry from the parapets. The
covering force precipitately retreated, and 30 men sallied out from
the fort, carried the intrenchments, and bayoneted their defenders.
Other troops followed, the works were destroyed, and the intrenching
tools carried into the fort. General Greene, advancing with his whole
army, arrived only in time to see the last of the sallying party
re-enter the village.
"I call that a right-down good beginning," Peter Lambton said, in
great exultation. "There's nothing like hitting a hard blow at the
beginning of the fight. It raises your spirits and makes t'other chap
mighty cautious. You'll see next time they'll begin their works at a
much more respectful distance."
Peter was right. The blow checked the impetuosity of the American
general, and on the night of the 23d he opened his trenches at a
distance of four hundred yards. Having so large a force, he was able
to push forward with great rapidity, although the garrison made
several gallant sorties to interfere with the work.
On June 3 the second parallel was completed. A formal summons was
sent to the British commander to surrender. This document was couched
in the most insolent language and contained the most unsoldierlike
threats of the consequences which would befall the garrison and its
commander if he offered further resistance. Colonel Cruger sent back
a verbal answer that he was not frightened by General Greene's
menaces and that he should defend the post until the last.
The American batteries now opened with a heavy cross-fire, which
enfiladed several of the works. They also pushed forward a sap
against the Star fort and erected a battery, composed of gabions,
thirty-six yards only from the abattis and raised forty feet high so
as to overlook the works of the garrison. The riflemen posted on its
top did considerable execution and prevented the British guns being
worked during the day.
The garrison tried to burn the battery by firing heated shot into it,
but from want of proper furnaces they were unable to heat the shot
sufficiently, and the attempt failed. They then protected their
parapets as well as they could by sand-bags with loop-holes, through
which the defenders did considerable execution with their rifles.
Harold and his two comrades, whose skill with their weapons was
notorious, had their post behind some sand-bags immediately facing
the battery, and were able completely to silence the fire of its
riflemen, as it was certain death to show a head above its parapet.
The enemy attempted to set fire to the houses of the village by
shooting blazing arrows into them, a heavy musketry and artillery
fire being kept up to prevent the defenders from quenching the
flames. These succeeded, however, in preventing any serious
conflagration, but Colonel Cruger ordered at once that the whole of
the houses should be unroofed. Thus the garrison were for the rest of
the siege without protection from the rain and night air, but all
risk of a fire, which might have caused the consumption of their
stores, was avoided.
While the siege had been going on the town of Augusta had fallen, and
Lieutenant Colonel Lee, marching thence to re-enforce General Greene,
brought with him the British prisoners taken there. With a scandalous
want of honorable feeling he marched these prisoners along in full
sight of the garrison, with all the parade of martial music, and
preceded by a British standard reversed.
If the intention was to discourage the garrison it failed entirely in
its effect. Fired with indignation at so shameful a sight, they
determined to encounter every danger and endure every hardship rather
than fall into the hands of an enemy capable of disgracing their
success by so wanton an insult to their prisoners.
The Americans, strengthened by the junction of the troops who had
reduced Augusta, began to make approaches against the stockaded fort
on the left of the village, which kept open the communication of the
garrison with their water supply. The operations on this side were
intrusted to Colonel Lee, while General Greene continued to direct
those against the Star.
On the night of June 9 a sortie was made by two strong parties of the
defenders. That to the right entered the enemy's trenches and
penetrated to a battery of four guns, which nothing but the want of
spikes and hammers prevented them from destroying. Here they
discovered the mouth of a mine intended to be carried under one of
the defenses of the Star.
The division on the left fell in with the covering party of the
Americans, killed a number of them, and made their commanding officer
On the 12th Colonel Lee determined to attempt a storm of the stockade
on the left, and sent forward a sergeant and six men, with lighted
combustibles, to set fire to the abattis. The whole of them were
killed before effecting their purpose. A number of additional cannon
now arrived from Augusta, and so heavy and incessant a fire was
opened upon the stockade from three batteries that on the 17th it was
no longer tenable, and the garrison evacuated it in the night.
The suffering of the garrison for want of water now became extreme.
With great labor a well had been dug in the fort, but no water was
found, and none could be procured except from the rivulet within
pistol-shot of the enemy. In the day nothing could be done, but at
night negroes, whose bodies in the darkness were not easily
distinguished from the tree-stumps which surrounded them, went out
and at great risk brought in a scanty supply. The position of the
garrison became desperate. Colonel Cruger, however, was not
discouraged, and did his best to sustain the spirits of his troops by
assurances that Lord Rawdon was certain to attempt to relieve the
place as soon as he possibly could do so.
At length one day, to the delight of the garrison, an American
royalist rode right through the pickets under the fire of the enemy
and delivered a verbal message from Lord Rawdon to the effect that he
had passed Orangeburg and was on his march to raise the siege.
Lord Rawdon had been forced to remain at Charleston until the arrival
of three fresh regiments from Ireland enabled him to leave that place
in safety and march to the relief of Ninety-six. His force amounted
to 1800 infantry and 150 cavalry. General Greene had also received
news of Lord Rawdon's movements, and, finding from his progress that
it would be impossible to reduce the fort by regular approaches
before his arrival, he determined to hazard an assault.
The American works had been pushed up close to the forts, and the
third parallel had been completed, and a mine and two trenches
extended within a few feet of the ditch. On the morning of June 18 a
heavy cannonade was begun from all the American batteries. The Whole
of the batteries and trenches were lined with riflemen, whose fire
prevented the British from showing their heads, above the parapets.
At noon two parties of the enemy advanced under cover of their
trenches and made a lodgment in the ditch. These were followed by
other parties with hooks to drag down the sand-bags and tools to
overthrow the parapet. They were exposed to the fire of the
block-houses in the village, and Major Green, the English officer who
commanded the Star fort, had his detachment in readiness behind the
parapet to receive the enemy when they attempted to storm.
As the main body of Americans did not advance beyond the third
parallel and contented themselves with supporting the parties in the
ditch with their fire, the commander of the fort resolved to inflict
a heavy blow. Two parties, each 30 strong, under the command of
Captains Campbell and French, issued from the sally-port in the rear,
entered the ditch, and, taking opposite directions, charged the
Americans who had made the lodgment with such impetuosity that they
drove everything before them until they met. The bayonet alone was
used and the carnage was great--two-thirds of those who entered the
trenches were either killed or wounded.
General Greene, finding it useless any longer to continue the
attempt, called off his troops, and on the following day raised the
siege and marched away with all speed, having lost at least 300 men
in the siege. Of the garrison 27 were killed and 58 wounded.
On the 21st Lord Rawdon arrived at Ninety-six and, finding that it
would be hopeless for him to attempt to overtake the retreating
enemy, who were marching with great speed, he drew off the garrison
of Ninety-six and fell back toward the coast.
A short time afterward a sharp fight ensued between a force under
Colonel Stewart and the army of General Greene. The English were
taken by surprise and were at first driven back, but they recovered
from their confusion and renewed the fight with great spirit, and
after a desperate conflict the Americans were repulsed. Two cannon
and 60 prisoners were taken; among the latter Colonel Washington, who
commanded the reserve. The loss on both sides was about equal, as 250
of the British troops were taken prisoners at the first outset. The
American killed considerably exceeded our own. Both, parties claimed
the victory; the Americans because they had forced the British to
retreat; the British because they had ultimately driven the Americans
from the field and obliged them to retire to a strong position seven
miles in the rear This was the last action of the war in South
THE END OF THE STRUGGLE.
Being unable to obtain any supplies at Wilmington, Lord Cornwallis
determined to march on into Virginia and to effect a junction with
the British force under General Arnold operating there. Arnold
advanced to Petersburg and Cornwallis effected a junction with him on
May 20. The Marquis de la Fayette, who commanded the colonial forces
here, fell back. Just at this time the Count de Grasse, with a large
French fleet, arrived off the coast, and, after some consultation
with General Washington, determined that the French fleet and the
whole American army should operate together to crush the forces under
The English were hoodwinked by reports that the French fleet was
intended to operate against New York, and it was not until they
learned that the Count de Grasse had arrived with twenty-eight ships
of the line at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay that the true object
of the expedition was seen. A portion of the English fleet
encountered them, but after irregular actions, lasting over five
days, the English drew off and retired to New York. The
commander-in-chief then attempted to effect a diversion, in order to
draw off some of the enemy who were surrounding Cornwallis. The fort
of New London was stormed after some desperate fighting, and great
quantities of ammunition and stores and fifty pieces of cannon taken.
General Washington did not allow his attention to be distracted.
Matters were in a most critical condition, for although to the
English the prospect of ultimate success appeared slight indeed, the
Americans were in a desperate condition. Their immense and
long-continued efforts had been unattended with any material success.
It was true that the British troops held no more ground now than they
did at the end of the first year of the war, but no efforts of the
colonists had succeeded in wresting that ground from them. The people
were exhausted and utterly disheartened. Business of all sorts was at
a standstill. Money had ceased to circulate, and the credit of
Congress stood so low that its bonds had ceased to have any value
whatever. The soldiers were unpaid, ill fed, and mutinous. If on the
English side it seemed that the task of conquering was beyond them,
the Americans were ready to abandon the defense from sheer
exhaustion. It was then of paramount necessity to General Washington
that a great and striking success should be obtained to animate the
spirits of the people.
Cornwallis, seeing the formidable combination which the French and
Americans were making to crush him, sent message after message to New
York to ask for aid from the commander-in-chief, and received
assurances from him that he would at once sail with 4000 troops to
join him. Accordingly, in obedience to his orders, Lord Cornwallis
fortified himself at Yorktown.
On September 28 the combined army of French and Americans, consisting
of 7000 of the former and 12,000 of the latter, appeared before
Yorktown and the post at Gloucester. Lord Cornwallis had 5960 men,
but so great had been the effects of the deadly climate in the autumn
months that only 4017 men were reported as fit for duty.
The enemy at once invested the town and opened their trenches against
it. From their fleet they had drawn an abundance of heavy artillery,
and on October 9 their batteries opened a tremendous fire upon the
works. Each day they pushed their trenches closer, and the British
force was too weak, in comparison with the number of its assailants,
to venture upon sorties. The fire from the works was completely
overpowered by that of the enemy, and the ammunition was nearly
exhausted. Day after day passed and still the promised re-enforcements
did not arrive. Lord Cornwallis was told positively that the fleet
would set sail on October 8, but it came not, nor did it leave port
until the 19th, the day on which Lord Cornwallis surrendered.
On the 16th, finding that he must either surrender or break through,
he determined to cross the river and fall on the French rear with his
whole force and then turn northward and force his way through
Maryland, Pennsylvania, and the Jerseys. In the night the light
infantry, the greater part of the guards, and part of the
Twenty-third were embarked in boats and crossed to the Gloucester
side of the river before midnight. At this critical moment a violent
storm arose which prevented the boats returning. The enemy's fire
reopened at daybreak, and the engineer and principal officers of the
army gave it as their opinion that it was impossible to resist
longer. Only one eight-inch shell and a hundred small ones remained.
The defenses had in many places tumbled to ruins, and no effectual
resistance could be opposed to an assault.
Accordingly Lord Cornwallis sent out a flag of truce and arranged
terms of surrender. On the 24th the fleet and re-enforcements arrived
off the mouth of the Chesapeake. Had they left New York at the time
promised, the result of the campaign would have been different.
The army surrendered as prisoners of war until exchanged, the
officers with liberty to proceed on parole to Europe and not to serve
until exchanged. The loyal Americans were embarked on the _Bonito_,
sloop of war, and sent to New York in safety, Lord Cornwallis having
obtained permission to send off the ship without her being searched,
with as many soldiers on board as he should think fit, so that they
were accounted for in any further exchange. He was thus enabled to
send off such of the inhabitants and loyalist troops as would have
suffered from the vengeance of the Americans.
The surrender of Lord Cornwallis' army virtually ended the war. The
burden entailed on the people in England by the great struggle
against France, Spain, Holland, and America, united in arms against
her, was enormous. So long as there appeared any chance of recovering
the colony the English people made the sacrifices required of them,
but the conviction that it was impossible for them to wage a war with
half of Europe and at the same time to conquer a continent had been
gaining more and more in strength. Even the most sanguine were
silenced by the surrender of Yorktown, and a cry arose throughout the
country that peace should at once be made.
As usual under the circumstances, a change of ministry took place.
Negotiations for peace were at once commenced, and the war terminated
in the acknowledgment of the entire independence of the United States
Harold with his companions had fallen back to Charleston with Lord
Rawdon after the relief of Ninety-six, and remained there until the
news arrived that the negotiations were on foot and that peace was
now certain. Then he took his discharge and sailed at once for
England, accompanied by Jake; Peter Lambton taking a passage to
Canada to carry out his intention of settling at Montreal.
Harold was now past twenty-two, and his father and mother did not
recognize him when, without warning, he arrived at their residence in
Devonshire. It was six years since his mother had seen him, when she
sailed from Boston before its surrender in 1776.
For a year he remained quiet at home, and then carried out his plan
of returning to the American continent and settling in Canada.
Accompanied by Jake, he sailed for the St. Lawrence and purchased a
snug farm on its banks, near the spot where it flows from Lake
He greatly improved it, built a comfortable house upon it, and two
years later returned to England, whence he brought back his Cousin
Nelly as his wife.
Her little fortune was used in adding to the farm, and it became one
of the largest and best managed in the country. Peter Lambton
found Montreal too crowded for him and settled down on the estate,
supplying it with fish and game so long as his strength enabled him
to go about, and enjoying the society of Jack Pearson, who had
married and established himself on a farm close by. As years went
on and the population increased the property became very valuable,
and Harold, before he died, was one of the wealthiest and most
respected men in the colony. So long as his mother lived he and his
wife paid occasional visits to England, but after her death his
family and farm had so increased that it was inconvenient to leave
them; his father therefore returned with him to Canada and ended his
life there. Jake lived to a good old age and was Harold's faithful
friend and right-hand man to the last.