Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

this place the allied forces were joined by a detachment of the militia of Virginia, under the command of Governour Nelson. Preparations were soon made to besiege Yorktown.

The rivers, York and James, form a long and narrow peninsula, and Lord Cornwallis had chosen a position on the south side of York river as a military post, and had strongly fortified it. Opposite to York. town on the north shore is Gloucester Point, which projects into the river, and at this place reduces its width to one mile. This point his Lordship also pos sessed, and fortified. Between these posts the river is deep, and ships of the line may here ride in safety. The conimunication between Yorktown and Gloucester Point was defended by batteries on shore, and by several armed ships in the river. The body of the British army was encamped about Yorktown, within a range of redoubts and field works, erected to command the peninsula, which at this place is not inore than eight miles wide, and to impede the approach of an assaulting enemy. Colonel Tarleton with six or seven hundred men defended Gloucester.

On the 28th, the main body of the allied army moved down towards Yorktown, driviny before them troops of horse, and the piquets of the enemy. The columns, as they reached the ground assigned them, encamped for the night and lay upon their arms. The next day was employed in reconnoitring the enemy's position, in which service Colonel Scammel, an officer of morit, was mortally wounded, and taken prisoner. A force consisting of about thousand French and Ameri. cans, under the command of the French General de Choisé, was stationed on the north side of the river, to watch and restrain the enemy in Gloucester.

The French and Americans were employed until the 6th of October, in conveying their artillery and stores from the landing place to camp. On the night of that day, they broke ground within six hundred Vol. II.

2*

yards of the British lines; and the first parallel was completed with little loss. On the 9th and 10th, guns were mounted on the works, and the batteries began to play, with visible effect, on the lines of the enemy. Many of their guns were soon silenced, and their works damaged. By the 11th, the enemy scarcely returned a shot. The shells and red hot balls of the besiegers reached the British shipping in the river, and set the Charon frigate of forty-four guns, and several large transports on fire, which were entirely consumed. A spirit of emulation animated the troops of both nations, and the siege was prosecuted with vigour and effect. On the night of the 1lth, the second parallel was begun within three hundred yards of the British lines. The working parties were not discovered until day. light, when the trenches were in a situation to cover the men. Three days were spent in completing the batteries of this parallel, which time the Britislı indefatigably employed upon their lines. They opened new embrasures, and their fire was more destructive than at any previous period of the siege. Two redoubts in particular, advanced in front of the British lines, and which flanked the second parallel of the Americans, gave great annoyance; and it was deemed necessary to carry them by storm.

To prevent national jealousy, and to keep alive the spirit of emulation, the attack of one was assigned to the American troops, and that of the other to tlie French. The Marquis La Fayette commanded the American detachment consisting of light infantry, which was designed to act agairst the redoubt near the river, and the Baron de Viominel, with the grenadiers and chasseurs of his nation, was ordered to storm the redoubt nearer to the British right. Colonel Hamilton, who through this campaign commanded å battalion of light infantry, led the advanced corps of tho Americans to the assault, while Colonel Laurens turned the redoubt and attacked in the rear, to pre

nen.

vent the retreat of the garrison. Without giving time for the abattis to be removed, and without firing a gun, the Americans gallantly assaulted, and instantly car. ried the works. Their loss was one sergeant and eight privates killed ; and six officers, and twenty-six rank and file wounded. The garrison was commanded by a Major, and consisted of about fifty men. Of these, eight privates were killed, a few individuals escapod, and the residue were made prisoners.*

The redoubt attacked by the French was garrisoned by one hundred and twenty men, it made more resiatance and was overcome at the loss of near one hundred

Of the garrison eighteen were killed, and three officers and about forty privates were made prisoners.

The Commander in Chief was highly pleased with the gallantry of the attacking troops on this occasion. In general orders he congratulated the army on the success or'the enterprise, and thanked the troops for their cool and intrepid conduct." The General roflects, conclude the orders, “ with the highest degree of pleasure, on the confidence which the troops of the two nations inust hereafter have in each other. Assured of mutual support, he is convinced there is no danger, which they will not cheerfully encounter, no

* This event took place soon after the wanton slaughter of the men in Fort Griswold in Connecticut by the British “ The irritation of this recent carnage had not so far subdued the huinanity of the American character as to induce retaliation. Not a man was killed except in action. Incapable,' said Colonel Hamilton in his report, of imitating oxamples of bar, barity, and forgetting recent provocation, the soldiery spared every man that ceased to resist.' Mr. Gordon, in his History of the American War, states, the orders given by La Fayette, with the approbation of WASHINGTON, to have directed, that every man in the redoubt, after its surrender, should be put to the sword. These sanguinary orders, so ropugnant to ihe, character of the Commander in Chief, and of La Fayette, were never given. There is no trace of them among the papers of General WASHINGTON ; and Colonel Hamilton, who took a part in the enterprise, which assures his perfect knowledge of every material occurrence, has publickly contradicted tho statement."

Fudge Marshall.

difficulty which they will not bravely overcome.” The redoubts were the same night included within the second parallel

Lord Cornwallis well knew that the fire of the se cond parallel would soon render his works untenable, and determined to attempt to destroy it. The sortio appointed for this service consisted of three hundred and fifty men, and was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Abercrombie. With great impetuosity, he attacked two batteries that were in the greatest forward

ness and carried them ; but the guards from Oct. 15.

the trenches advancing, he was compelled to retreat without having effected his purpose. A few pieces of cannon were hastily spiked; but they were soon again rendered fit for use. The service was honourable for the officers and men engaged, but the siege was not protracted.

By the afternoon of the 16th the British works sunk under the fire of the batteries of the second parallel ; in the whole front attacked, they could not show a single gun, and their shells were nearly expended. In this extremity his Lordship adopted the desperate resolution to attempt an escape. Leaving the sick and wounded in his posts, he determined with his efficient force to cross over to Gloucester, disperse the troops under De Choise, mount his troops upon horses that, might be found in the country, direct his course to the fords of the Great rivers, and make his way 10 New-York. For this purpose boats were collected, and other necessary measures taken. On the night of the 16th the first embarcation arrived in safety at Gloucester, but at the moment thc boats were returning, a violent storm arose, which forced them down the river. At day-light the storm subsided, and the boats were sent to bring back the soldiers to Yorktown, which with little loss, was accomplished in the course of the forenoon.

On the morning of the 17th, the fire of the Ameri.

can batteries became intolerable, which soon, by its reiterated effects, rendered the British post untenable. Lord Cornwallis, perceiving further resistance to be unavailing, about ten o'clock beat a parley, and proposed a cessation of hostilities for twenty-four hours, that Commissioners might meet to settle the terms on which the posts of York and Gloucester should be surrendered. General WASHINGTON, in his answer, declared his “ ardent desire to spare the effusion of blood, and his readiness to listen to such terms as were admissible ;" but to prevent loss of time, he desired" that, previous to the meeting of the Commissioners, the proposals of his Lordship might be transmitted in writing, for which purpose a suspension of hostilities for two hours should be granted.” The terms proposed by his Lordship, were such as led the General to suppose that articles of capitulation might easily be adjusted, and he continued the cessation of hostilities until the next day. To expedite the business, he summarily stated the terms he was willing to grant, and informed Earl Cornwallis, that if he admitted these as the basis of a treaty, Commissioners might meet to put them into form. Accordingly Viscount de Noailles, and Lieutenant Colonel Laurens on the part of the allies, and Colonel Dundas and Major Ross, on the part of the English, met the next day and adjusted articles of capitulation, which were to be submitted to the consideration of the British General. Resolving not to expose himself to any accident that might be the consequence of unnecessary delay, General WASHINGTON ordered the rough draught of the Commissioners to be fairly transcribed, and sent to Lord Cornwallis early next morning, with a letter, expressing his expectation that the garrison would march out by two o'clock in the afternoon. Hopeless of inore favourable terms, his Lordship signed the capitulation, and surrendered the posts of York and Gloucester with their garrisons to General WaSHINGTON ; and the

« ZurückWeiter »