The Life of George Washington
Chapter Eight: The Campaign of 1781
The year 1780 ended in the northern states with disappointment, and the year 1781 commenced with mutiny.
In the night of the first of January about 1,300 of the Pennsylvania line paraded under arms in their encampment, near Morristown, avowing a determination to march to the seat of Congress, and obtain a redress of their grievances, without which they would serve no longer.
The exertions of Gen. Wayne and the other officers to quell the mutiny, were in vain. The whole body marched off with six field-pieces towards Princeton. They stated their demands in writing; which were, a discharge to all who had served three years, an immediate payment of all that was due to them, and that future pay should be made in real money to all who remained in the service. Their officers, a committee of Congress, and a deputation from the executive council of Pennsylvania, endeavoured to effect an accommodation; but the mutineers resolutely refused all terms, of which a redress of their grievances was not the foundation.
To their demands as founded in justice, the civil authority of Pennsylvania substantially yielded. Intelligence of this mutiny was communicated to Gen. Washington at New-Windsor, before any accommodation had taken place. Though he had long been accustomed to decide in hazardous and difficult situations, yet it was no easy matter in this delicate crisis, to determine on the most proper course to be pursued. His personal influence had several times extinguished rising mutinies.
The first scheme that presented itself was, to repair to the camp of the mutineers, and try to recall them to a sense of their duty; but on mature reflection this was declined. He well knew that their claims were founded in justice, but he could not reconcile himself to wound the discipline of his army, by yielding to their demands while they were in open revolt with arms in their hands. He viewed the subject in all its relations, and was well apprised that the principal grounds of discontent were not peculiar to the Pennsylvania line, but common to all his troops.
If force was requisite, he had none to spare without hazarding West-Point. If concessions were unavoidable, they had better be made by any person other than the commander in chief. After that due deliberation which he always gave to matters of importance, he determined against a personal interference, and to leave the whole to the civil authorities, which had already taken it up; but at the same time prepared for those measures which would become necessary, if no accommodation took place. This resolution was communicated to Gen. Wayne, with a caution to regard the situation of the other lines of the army in any concessions which might be made, and with a recommendation to draw the mutineers over the Delaware, with a view to increase the difficulty of communicating with the enemy in New-York.
The dangerous policy of yielding even to the just demands of soldiers with arms in their hands, soon became apparent. The success of the Pennsylvania line induced a part of that of New-Jersey to hope for similar advantages, from similar conduct. A part of the Jersey brigade rose in arms, and making the same claims which had been yielded to the Pennsylvanians, marched to Chatham. Washington, who was far from being pleased with the issue of the mutiny in the Pennsylvania line, determined by strong measures to stop the progress of a spirit which was hostile to all his hopes. Gen. Howe, with a detachment of the eastern troops, was immediately ordered to march against the mutineers, and instructed to make no terms with them while they were in a state of resistance; and on their surrender to seize a few of the most active leaders, and to execute them immediately in the presence of their associates. These orders were obeyed: two of the ringleaders were shot, and the survivors returned to their duty.
Though Washington adopted these decisive measures, yet no man was more sensible of the merits and sufferings of his army, and none more active and zealous in procuring them justice. He improved the late events, by writing circular letters to the states, urging them to prevent all future causes of discontent by fulfilling their engagements with their respective lines.
Some good effects were produced, but only temporary, and far short of the well founded claims of the army. Their wants with respect to provisions were only partially supplied, and by expedients, from short time to another. The most usual was ordering an officer to seize on provisions wherever found. This differed from robbing only in its being done by authority for the public service, and in the officer being always directed to give the proprietor a certificate of the quantity and quality of what was taken from him. At first, some reliance was placed on these certificates, as vouchers to support a future demand on the United States; but they soon became so common as to be of little value. Recourse was so frequently had to coercion, both legislative and military, that the people not only lost confidence in public credit, but became impatient under all exertions of authority for forcing their property from them.
About this time Gen. Washington was obliged to apply 9,000 dollars sent by the state of Massachusetts, for the payment of her troops, to the use of the quarter-master's department, to enable him to transport provisions from the adjacent states. Before he consented to adopt this expedient, he had consumed every ounce of provision which had been kept as a reserve in the garrison of West-Point, and had strained impress by military force to so great an extent, that there was reason to apprehend the inhabitants, irritated by such frequent calls, would proceed to dangerous insurrections. Fort Schuyler, West-Point and the posts up the North river, were on the point of being abandoned by their starving garrisons.
At this period there was little or no circulating medium, either in the form of paper or specie, and in the neighbourhood of the American army, there was a real want of necessary provisions. The deficiency of the former occasioned many inconveniences, but the insufficiency of the latter had well nigh dissolved the army, and laid the country in every direction open to British excursions.
On the first of May, 1781, Gen. Washington commenced a military journal. The following statement is extracted from it:
"I begin at this epoch a concise journal of military transactions, &c. I lament not having attempted it from the commencement of the war, in aid of my memory; and wish the multiplicity of matter which continually surrounds me, and the embarrassed state of affairs, which is momentarily calling the attention to perplexities of one kind or another, may not defeat altogether, or so interrupt my present intention and plan, as to render it of little avail.
"To have the clearer understanding of the entries which may follow, it would be proper to recite in detail, our wants and our prospects; but this alone would be a work of much time and great magnitude. It may suffice to give the sum of them, which I shall do in few words: viz.
"Instead of having magazines filled with provisions, we have a scanty pittance scattered here and there in the distant states.
Instead of having our arsenals well supplied with military stores, they are poorly provided, and the workmen all leaving them. Instead of having the various articles of field equipage in readiness, the Quarter-master-general is but now applying to the several states to provide these things for their troops respectively.
"Instead of having a regular system of transportation established upon credit, or funds in the Quarter-master's hands to defray the contingent expenses thereof, we have neither the one nor the other; and all that business, or a great part of it, being done by impressment, we are daily and hourly oppressing the people, souring their tempers, and alienating their affections.
"Instead of having the regiments completed agreeable to the requisitions of Congress, scarce any state in the union has at this hour one eighth part of its quota in the field, and there is little prospect of ever getting more than half. In a word, instead of having any thing in readiness to take the field, we have nothing; and, instead of having the prospect of a glorious offensive campaign before us, we have a bewildered and gloomy prospect of a defensive one; unless we should receive a powerful aid of ships, troops, and money, from our generous allies, and these at present are too contingent to build upon."
While the Americans were suffering the complicated calamities which introduced the year 1781, their adversaries were carrying on the most extensive plan of operations against them which had ever been attempted. It had often been objected to the British commanders, that they had not conducted the war in the manner most likely to effect the subjugation of the revolted provinces. Military critics found fault with them for keeping a large army idle at New-York, which, they said, if properly applied, would have been sufficient to make successful impressions at one and the same time, on several of the states. The British seem to have calculated the campaign of 1781, with a view to make an experiment of the comparative merit of this mode of conducting military operations. The war raged in that year not only in the vicinity of the British head-quarters at New-York, but in Georgia, South-Carolina, North-Carolina, and in Virginia.
In this extensive warfare, Washington could have no immediate agency in the southern department. His advice in corresponding with the officers commanding in Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia, was freely and beneficially given; and as large detachments sent to their aid as could be spared consistently with the security of West-Point. In conducting the war, his invariable maxim was, to suffer the devastation of property, rather than hazard great and essential objects for its preservation.
While the war raged in Virginia, the Governor thereof, its representatives in Congress, and other influential citizens, urged his return to the defence of his native state. But, considering America as his country, and the general safety as his object, he deemed it of more importance to remain on the Hudson: there he was not only securing the most important post in the United States, but concerting a grand plan of combined operations, which, as shall soon be related, not only delivered Virginia, but all the states, from the calamities of the war.
In Washington's disregard of property when in competition with national objects, he was in no respect partial to his own. While the British were in the Potowmac, they sent a flag on shore to Mount Vernon, (his private estate) requiring a supply of fresh provisions. Refusals of such demands were often followed by burning the houses and other property near the river. To prevent this catastrophe, the person intrusted with the management of the estate, went on board with the flag, and carrying a supply of provisions, requested that the buildings and improvements might be spared.
For this he received a severe reprimand in a letter to him, in which the General observed — "That it would have been a less painful circumstance to me to have heard, that, in consequence of your non-compliance with the request of the British, they had burnt my house, and laid my plantation in ruins. You ought to have considered yourself as my representative, and should have reflected on the bad example of communicating with the enemy, and making a voluntary offer of refreshment to them, with a view to prevent a conflagration."
To the other difficulties with which Washington had to contend in the preceding years of the war, a new one was about this time added. While the whole force at his disposal was unequal to the defence of the country against the common enemy, a civil war was on the point of breaking out among his fellow citizens. The claims of the inhabitants of Vermont to be a separate independent state, and of the state of New-York, to their country, as within its chartered limits, together with open offers from the Royal Commanders to establish and defend them as a British province, produced a serious crisis, which called for the interference of the American chief.
This was the more necessary, as the governments of New-York and of Vermont were both resolved on exercising a jurisdiction over the same people and the same territory. Congress, wishing to compromise the controversy on middle ground, resolved, in August, 1781, to accede to the independence of Vermont on certain conditions, and within certain specified limits, which they supposed would satisfy both parties.
Contrary to their expectations, this mediatorial act of the national legislature was rejected by Vermont, and yet was so disagreeable to the legislature of New-York as to draw from them a spirited protest against it. Vermont complained that Congress interfered in their internal police; New-York viewed the resolve as a virtual dismemberment of their state, which was a constituent part of the confederacy.
Washington, anxious for the peace of the union, sent a message to Chittenden, Governor of Vermont, desiring to know "what were the real designs, views, and intentions, of the people of Vermont; whether they would be satisfied with the independence proposed by Congress, or had it seriously in contemplation to join with the enemy, and become a British province."
The Governor returned an unequivocal answer — "that there were no people on the continent more attached to the cause of America than the people of Vermont; but they were fully determined not to be put under the government of New-York; that they would oppose this by force of arms, and would join with the British in Canada rather than to submit to that government."
While both states were dissatisfied with Congress, and their animosities, from increasing violence and irritation, became daily more alarming, Washington, aware of the extremes to which all parties were tending, returned an answer to Gov. Chittenden, in which were these expressions.
"It is not my business, neither do I think it necessary now to discuss the origin of the right of a number of inhabitants to that tract of country formerly distinguished by the name of the New-Hampshire grants, and now known by that of Vermont. I will take it for granted that their right was good, because Congress by their resolve of the 7th of August, imply it, and by that of the 21st are willing fully to confirm it, provided the new state is confined to certain prescribed bounds. It appears therefore to me, that the dispute of boundary is the only one that exists; and that being removed, all other difficulties would be removed also, and the matter terminated to the satisfaction of all parties. You have nothing to do but withdraw your jurisdiction to the confines of your old limits, and obtain an acknowledgment of independence and sovereignty, under the resolve of the 21st of August, for so much territory as does not interfere with the ancient established bounds of New-York, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts.
"In my private opinion, while it behooves the delegates to do ample justice to a body of people sufficiently respectable by their numbers, and entitled by other claims to be admitted into that confederation, it becomes them also to attend to the interests of their constituents, and see that under the appearance of justice to one, they do not materially injure the rights of others. I am apt to think this is the prevailing opinion of Congress."
The impartiality, moderation, and good sense, of this letter, together with a full conviction of the disinterested patriotism of the writer, brought round a revolution in the minds of the legislature of Vermont; and they accepted the propositions of Congress, thought they had rejected them four months before. A truce among the contending parties followed, and the storm blew over. Thus the personal influence of one man, derived from his pre-eminent virtues and meritorious services, extinguished the sparks of civil discord at the time they were kindling into flame.
Though in conducting the American war, Gen. Washington often acted on the Fabian system, by evacuating, retreating, and avoiding decisive engagements; yet this was much more the result of necessity than of choice. His uniform opinion was in favour of energetic offensive operations, as the most effectual means of bringing the war to a termination. On this principle he planned attacks in almost every year on some or other of the British armies or strong posts in the United States. He endeavoured, from year to year, to stimulate the public mind to some great operation; but was never properly supported.
In the years 1778. 1779, and 1780, the projected combined operations with the French, as has been related, entirely miscarried. The idea of ending the war by some decisive military exploit, continually occupied his active mind. To ensure success, a naval superiority on the coast, and a loan of money, were indispensably necessary. The last was particularly so in the year 1781; for the resources of the United States were then so reduced, as to be unequal to the support of their army, or even to the transportation of it to any distant scene of action.
To obtain these necessary aids, it was determined to send an envoy extraordinary to the court of Versailles. Lieut. Col. John Laurens was selected for this purpose. He was in every respect qualified for the important mission. In addition to the most engaging personal address, his connexion with the commander in chief, as one of his aids, gave him an opportunity of being intimately acquainted with the military capacities and weaknesses of his country. These were also particularly detailed in the form of a letter to him from Gen. Washington. This was written when the Pennsylvania line was in open revolt.
Among other interesting matters it stated — "That the efforts already made by the United States exceeded the natural ability of the country; and that any revenue they were capable of making would leave a large surplus to be supplied by credit; that experience had proved the impossibility of a paper system without funds, and that domestic loans could not be effected, because there were few men of monied capital in the United States; that from necessity recourse had been had to military impressments for supporting the army, which, if continued longer, or urged farther, would probably disgust the people, and bring round a revolution of public sentiment.
"That the relief procured by these violent means was so inadequate, that the patience of the army was exhausted, and their discontents had broke out in serious and alarming mutinies; that the relief necessary was not within the power of the United States; and that from a view of all circumstances, a loan of money was absolutely necessary for reviving public credit, and giving vigour to future operations."
It was further stated — "that next to a loan of money, a French naval superiority in the American seas was of so much consequence, that without it nothing decisive could be undertaken against the British, who were in the greatest force on and near the coasts."
The future capacities of the United States to repay any loan that might be made, were particularly stated; and that "there was still a fund of resource and inclination in the country equal to great exertions, provided a liberal supply of money would furnish the means of stopping the progress of disgust which resulted from the unpopular mode of supplying the army by requisition and impressment."
Such interesting statements, sanctioned by the American chief, and enforced by the address of Col. Laurens, directly from the scene of action, and the influence of Dr. Franklin, who, for the five preceding years, had been minister plenipotentiary from the United States to the court of Versailles, produced the desired effect. His Most Christian Majesty gave his American allies a subsidy of six millions of livres, and became their security for ten million more, borrowed for their use in the United Netherlands. A naval co-operation was promised, and a conjunct expedition against their common foes projected.
The American war was now so far involved in the consequences of naval operations, that a superior French fleet seemed to be the hinge on which it was likely soon to take a favourable turn. The British army being parcelled in the different sea-ports of the United States, any division of it, blocked up by a French fleet, could not long resist the superior combined force which might be brought to operate against it. The Marquis de Castries, who directed the marine of France with great precision, calculated the naval force which the British could concenter on the coast of the United States, and disposed his own in such a manner as ensured him a superiority.
In conformity to these principles, and in subserviency to the design of the campaign, M. de Grasse sailed in March, 1781, from Brest, with twenty-five sail of the line, several thousand land forces, and a large convoy amounting to more than two hundred ships. A small part of this force was destined for the East-Indies' but M. de Grasse with the greater part sailed for Martinique.
The British fleet then in the West-Indies had been previously weakened by the departure of a squadron for the protection of the ships which were employed in carrying to England the booty which had been taken at St. Eustatius. The British Admirals Hood and Drake were detached to intercept the outward bound French fleet, commanded by M. de Grasse; but a junction between his force and eight ships of the line, and one of 50 guns, which were previously at Martinique and St. Domingo, was nevertheless effected. By this combination of fresh ships from Europe, with the French fleet previously in the West-Indies, they had a decided superiority.
M. de Grasse having finished his business in the West-Indies, sailed in the beginning of August with a prodigious convoy. After seeing this out of danger, he directed his course for the Chesapeak, and arrived there on the thirtieth of the same month. Five days before his arrival in the Chesapeak, the French fleet in Rhode Island sailed for the same place. These fleets, notwithstanding their original distance from the scene of action, and from each other, coincided in their operations in an extraordinary manner, far beyond the reach of military calculation. They all tended to one object, and at one and the same time; and that object was neither known nor suspected by the British, till the proper season for counteraction was elapsed.
This coincidence of favourable circumstances extended to the marches of the American and French land forces. The plan of operations had been so well digested, and was so faithfully executed by the different commanders, that Gen. Washington and Count Rochambeau had passed the British head-quarters in New-York, and were considerably advanced in their way to Yorktown, before Count de Grasse had reached the American coast. This was effected in the following manner: Mons. de Barras, appointed to the commander of the French squadron at New-Port, arrived at Boston with dispatches for Count de Rochambeau.
An interview soon after took place at Weathersfield, between Generals Washington, Knox, and du Portail, on the part of the Americans, and Count de Rochambeau and the Chevalier Chastelleux, on the part of the French. At this interview an eventual plan of the whole campaign was fixed. This was to lay siege to New-York, in concert with a French fleet, which was to arrive on the coast in the month of August. It was agreed that the French troops should march towards the North river. Letters were addressed by Gen. Washington to the executive officers of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New-Jersey, requiring them to fill up their battalions, and to have their quotas of 6,200 militia in readiness within a week of the time they might be called for.
Conformably to these outlines of the campaign, the French troops marched from Rhode-Island in June, and early in the following month joined the American army. At the same time Washington marched his army from their winter encampment near Peekskill to the vicinity of Kingsbridge. Gen. Lincoln fell down the North river with a detachment in boats, and took possession of the ground where Fort Independence formerly stood. An attack was made upon him, but was soon discontinued.
The British about this time retired with almost the whole of their force to York Island. Washington hoped to be able to commence operations against New-York about the middle, or at farthest the latter end of July. Flat bottomed boats sufficient to transport 5,000 men were built near Albany, and brought down the North river to the neighbourhood of the American army before New-York. Ovens were erected opposite to Staten Island for the use of the French troops. Every movement introductory to the commencement of the siege was made.
To the great mortification of Washington, he found himself on the 2d of August, to be only a few hundreds stronger than he was on the day his army first moved from their winter quarters. To have fixed on a plan of operations with a foreign officer at the head of a respectable force; to have brought that force from a considerable distance in confident expectation of reinforcements sufficiently large to commence effective operations against the common enemy; and at the same time to have engagements in behalf of the states violated in direct opposition to their own interest, and in a manner derogatory to his personal honour, was enough to have excited storms and tempests in any mind less calm than that of Gen. Washington.
He bore this hard trial with his usual magnanimity, and contended himself with repeating his requisitions to the states; and at the same time urging them by every tie to enable him to fulfill engagements entered into on their account with the commander of the French troops.
That tardiness which at other times had brought the Americans near the brink of ruin, was now the accidental cause of real service. Had they sent forward their recruits for the regular army, and their quotas of militia, as was expected, the siege of New-York would have commenced in the latter end of July, or early in August.
While the season was wasting away in expectation of these reinforcements, lord Cornwallis, as has been mentioned, fixed himself near the Capes of Virginia. His situation there; the arrival of a reinforcement of 3,000 Germans from Europe to New-York; the superior strength of their garrison; the failure of the states in filling up their battalions and embodying their militia; and especially recent intelligence from Count de Grasse, that his destination was fixed to the Chesapeak, concurred about the middle of August to make a total change of the plan of the campaign.
The appearance of an intention to attack New-York was, nevertheless, kept up. While this deception was played off, the allied army crossed the North river, and passed on by the way of Philadelphia through the intermediate country to Yorktown. An attempt to reduce the British force in Virginia promised success with more expedition, and to secure an object of nearly equal importance as the reduction of New-York.
While the attack of New-York was in serious contemplation, a letter from Gen. Washington, detailing the particulars of the intended operations of the campaign, being intercepted, fell into the hands of Sir Henry Clinton. After the plan was changed, the royal commander was so much under the impression of the intelligence contained in the intercepted letter, that he believed every movement towards Virginia to be a feint calculated to draw off his attention from the defence of New-York. Under the influence of this opinion, he bent his whole force to strengthen that post; and suffered the American and French armies to pass him without molestation.
When the best opportunity of striking at them was elapsed, then for the first time he was brought to believe, that the allies had fixed on Virginia for the theatre of their combined operations. As truth may be made to answer the purposes of deception, so no feint of attacking New-York could have been more successful than the real intention.
In the latter end of August, the American army began their march to Virginia from the neighbourhood of New-York. Washington had advanced as far as Chester, before he received the news of the arrival of the fleet commanded by M. de Grasse. The French troops marched at the same time, and for the same place. Gen. Washington and Count Rochambeau with Generals Chastelleux, du Portail, and Knox, proceeded to visit Count de Grasse on board his ship, the Ville de Paris, and agreed on a plan of operations.
The Count afterwards wrote to Washington, that in case a British fleet appeared, "he conceived that he ought to go out and meet them at sea, instead of risking an engagement in a confined situation." This alarmed the General. He sent the Marquis de la Fayette with a letter to dissuade him from the dangerous measure. This letter, and the persuasions of the Marquis, had the desired effect.
The combined forces proceeded on their way to Yorktown, partly by land, and partly down the Chesapeak. The whole together, with a body of Virginia militia, under the command of Gen. Nelson, rendezvoused at Williamsburg, on the 25th of September, and in five days after moved down to the investiture of Yorktown.
The French fleet at the same time moved to the mouth of York river, and took a position which was calculated to prevent lord Cornwallis either from retreating, or receiving succour by water. Previously to the march from Williamsburg to Yorktown, Washington gave out in general orders as follows: — "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 particular prowess, in deciding battles with that weapon."
The works erected for the security of Yorktown on the right, were redoubts and batteries, with a line of stockade in the rear. A marshy ravine lay in front of the right, over which was placed a large redoubt. The morass extended along the centre, which was defended by a line of stockade, and by batteries. On the left of the centre was a hornwork with a ditch, a row of fraize, and an abbatis. Two redoubts were advanced before the left. The combined forces advanced, and took possession of the ground from which the British had retired.
About this time the legion cavalry and mounted infantry passed over the river to Gloucester. Gen. de Choisy invested the British post on that side so fully, as to cut off all communication between it and the country. In the mean time the royal army was straining every nerve to strengthen their works, and their artillery was constantly employed in impeding the operations of the combined army.
On the ninth and tenth of October, the Americans and French opened their batteries. They kept up a brisk and well directed fire from heavy cannon, from mortars, and howitzers. The shells of the besiegers reached the ships in the harbour; the Charon of 44 guns, and a transport ship, were burned. The besiegers commenced their second parallel two hundred yards from the works of the besieged. Two redoubts which were advanced on the left of the British, greatly impeded the progress of the combined armies. It was therefore proposed to carry them by storm. To excite a spirit of emulation, the reduction of the one was committed to the French, of the other to the Americans. The assailants marched to the assault with unloaded arms; having passed the abbatis and palisades, they attacked on all sides, and carried the redoubt in a few minutes, with the loss of eight men killed, and twenty-eight wounded.
The French were equally successful on their part. They carried the redoubt assigned to them with rapidity, but lost a considerable number of men. These two redoubts were included in the second parallel, and facilitated the subsequent operations of the besiegers.
By this time the batteries of the besiegers were covered with nearly a hundred pieces of heavy ordnance, and the works of the besieged were so damaged that they could scarcely show a single gun. Lord Cornwallis had now no hope left, but from offering terms of capitulation, or attempting an escape. He determined on the latter. This, though less practicable than when first proposed, was not altogether hopeless.
Boats were prepared to receive the troops in the night, and to transport them to Gloucester point. After one whole embarkation had crossed, a violent storm of wind and rain dispersed the boats, and frustrated the whole scheme. The royal army, thus weakened by division, was exposed to increased danger. Orders were sent to those who had passed, to recross the river to Yorktown.
With the failure of this scheme, the last hope of the British army expired. Longer resistance could answer no good purpose, and might occasion the loss of many valuable lives. Lord Cornwallis therefore wrote a letter to Gen. Washington, requesting a cessation of arms for twenty-four hours; and that commissioners might be appointed to digest terms of capitulation.
This was agreed to, and in consequence thereof, the posts of New-York and Gloucester were surrendered on certain stipulations; the principal of which were as follows:
— "The troops to be prisoners of war to Congress, and the naval force to France: — "The officers to retain their side arms and private property of every kind, but every thing obviously belonging to the inhabitants of the United States, to be subject to be reclaimed: — "The soldiers to be kept in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, and to be supplied with the same rations as are allowed to soldiers in the service of Congress: — "A proportion of the officers to march into the country with the prisoners, the rest to be allowed to proceed on parole to Europe, to New-York, or to any other American maritime post in possession of the British."
The honour of marching out with colours flying, which had been refused to Gen. Lincoln on his giving up Charleston, was now refused to Earl Cornwallis; and Gen. Lincoln was appointed to receive the submission of the royal army at Yorktown, precisely in the same way his own had been conducted about eighteen months before.
The regular troops of America and France, employed in this siege, consisted of about 5,500 of the former, and 7,000 of the latter, and they were assisted by about 4,000 militia. On the part of the combined army, about three hundred were killed or wounded. On the part of the British about five hundred and seventy were taken in the redoubts, which were carried by assault on the 14th of October. The troops of every kind that surrendered prisoners of war, exceeded 7,000 men; but so great was the number of sick and wounded, that there were only 3,800 capable of bearing arms.
Congress honoured Gen. Washington, Count de Rochambeau, Count de Grasse, and the officers of the different corps, and the men under them, with thanks for their services in the reduction of lord Cornwallis. The whole project was conceived with profound wisdom, and the incidents of it had been combined with singular propriety. It is not therefore wonderful, that from the remarkable coincidence in all its parts, it was crowned with unvaried success.
General George Washington, on the day after the surrender, ordered "that those who were under arrest, should be pardoned and set at liberty." His orders closed as follows — "Divine service shall be performed to-morrow in the different brigades and divisions. The commander in chief recommends that all the troops that are not upon duty, do assist at it with a serious deportment, and that sensibility of heart which the recollection of the surprising and particular interposition of providence in our favour claims." The interesting event of captivating a second royal army, produced strong emotions, which broke out in all the variety of ways in which the most rapturous joy usually displays itself.
After the capture of lord Cornwallis, Washington, with the greatest part of his army, returned to the vicinity of New-York. In the preceding six years he had been accustomed to look forward and to provide for all possible events. In the habit of struggling with difficulties, his courage at all times grew with the dangers which surrounded him. In the most disastrous situations he was far removed from despair. On the other hand, those fortunate events which induced many to believe that the revolution was accomplished, never operated on him so far as to relax his exertions or precautions.
In a letter to Gen. Greene he observed, "I shall endeavour to stimulate Congress to the best improvement of our late success, by taking the most vigorous and effectual measures to be ready for an early and decisive campaign the next year. My greatest fear is that, viewing this stroke in a point of light which may too much magnify its importance, they may think our work too nearly closed, and fall into a state of languor and relaxation. To prevent this error, I shall employ every means in my power; and if unhappily we sink into this fatal mistake, no part of the blame shall be mine."
End of Chapter Eight. Continue to
Chapter Nine of The Life of Washington