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Arnold is appointed a Brigadier in the British Service and invaden Virginia-Plan to capture him—Mutiny in the American Camp – Violence of the Pennsylvania Line-Order restored—We State of the army—The French Court grants a Loan to the United States—Exertion of the States to enable the General to open the Campaign—The French Troops march to the American Plan to surprise the British Post at King's Bridge—Expedition to Virginia—Count de Grasse arrives in the Chesapeak—Yorktown besieged—British Redoubts stormed—The British make a Sortie— Lord Qornwallis attempts to escape—He capitulates and surrenders his Posts—Indecisive Action between the French and English Fleets—Sir Henry, too late, embarks his Troops for Yorktown— Thanks of Congress to the American and French Commanders, and to the Army—General St. Clair despatched to Carolina--The other corps of the Army return to the Neighbourhood of NewYork, and go into Winter Quarters.
1781. ARNOLD, having been appointed a Brigadier General in the British army, was with about sixteen hundred men detached to invade Virginia. With his armed ships he sailed up James' river, and at Richmond and other places destroyed publick and private property to a great amount. He at length indicated a design to establish a permanent post at Portsmouth.
The French fleet since its arrival on the American coast had been blocked up in the harbour of Newport, and the land forces had remained inactive in that town. But about this time the British blockading squadron suffered by a violen, storm, and a temporary superiority was given to the French.
General Washington thought that a fair opportu
nity presented to strike a decisive blow at the British detachment in Virginia, and to obtain the person of Arnold. In pursuance of this scheme, the General detached the Marquis La Fayette to Virginia with twelve hundred of the American infantry: at the same time he requested the co-operation of the French from Rhode Island. The commanding officers gladly embraced the opportunity to engage in active services, that might prove advantageous to their American allies. On the death of Admiral Ternay, at Newport, the command of the fleet devolved on Destonches. In compliance with the request of General WASHINGTON, MARCH 8 he sailed with his whole squadron for the Chesapeak, having eleven hundred land
troops on board. The British Admiral Arbuthnot hav- '
ing repaired the damages sustained by the storm, immediately followed the French, and on the 25th an action took place between the two hostile fleets. The battle ended without loss to either fleet, but the fruits of victory were on the side of the English. The joint expedition was frustrated, the French returned to Newport, and Arnold was rescued from the fate which he merited. The winter of 1781 in a degree renewed the privations and sufferings of the American army. The men were badly clothed and scantily fed; and they had served almost a year without pay. Without murmuring they long endured their accumulated distresses. But the fortitude of the firmest men may be worn down. Dis heartened by their sufferings, despairing of relief, and dissatisfied, that their country did not make more ef. fectual exertions for their support, the spirit of mutiny broke out with alarming appearances. The Pennsylvania line stationed at Morristown, with the exception of three regiments, revolted. On a concerted signal, the non-commissioned officers and privates turned out with their arms, and announced the
design of marching to the seat of Congress, there to demand a redress of their intolerable grievances. The mutiny defied opposition. In the attempt to quell it, one cfficer was killed, and several dangerously wounded. General Wayne, in a threatening attitude, drew his pistol, the mutineers presented their bayonets to his breast and said, “General, we love and respect you, but if you fire, you are a dead man. We are not going to the enemy, on the contrary if they were now to come out, you should see us fight under your orders with as much alacrity as ever; but we will no longer be amused, we are determined on obtaining what is our just due.” Thirteen hundred of them, under officers of their own election, marched in order for Princeton with their arms and six field pieces. They committed no other act of violence, than to demand of the inha bitants provisions for their necessary support. Congress sent a Committee of their own body to confer with them. They demanded the redress of their grievances as the basis of accommodation. Sir Henry Clinton sent out agents to invite them to his standard, promising them more advantageous terms than those demanded of Congress. They with indignation rejected his proposals, and delivered over his emissaries to General Wayne, who hanged them as spies. President Reed offered the mutineers a purse of a hundred guineas as a reward for the surrender of the British emissaries. This they refused, declaring that “what they had done was only a duty they owed their country, and they neither desired, nor would receive any reward but the approbation of that country, for which they had so often fought and bled.” The Council of Pennsylvania appointed Mr. Reed, their President, and General Potter, a Committee to compromise with the soldiery, to whom the gentlemen from Congress transferred their powers. The Committee felt themselves compelled to yield more to the demands of these soldiers in a state of mutiny, tho * ...”
would have retained them quietly in their ranks, had the government of Pennsylvania seasonably attended to their pressing wants. Most of the artillerists, and many of the infantry were discharged, because their time of service was vaguely expressed in the orders under which they had enlisted. The residue received furloughs for forty days; and the whole line was, for this period, absolutely dissolved. The evil did not rest with the troops of Pennsylva. nia. Some of the Jersey brigade at Pompton caught their complaining spirit, and imitated their mutinous example. The mutineers were mostly foreigners, and they made the same claims upon the country, which had been granted to the Pennsylvania line. The former instance of mutiny had taken place at a distance from head quarters, and General WAshingTon, upon serious deliberation, had resolved, not to hazard his authority as Commander in Chief, in the attempt to bring the revolters to order by the influence of his personal character; but to leave the delicate transaction with the civil government of the state; and he was satisfied with the result. But he perceived the importance of arresting the progress of a spirit, which threatened the dissolution of his army. Relying on the firmness and patriotism of the New-England battalions, which were composed almost exclusively of native Americans, he determined to reduce the Jersey revolters to unconditional subjection. General Howe was detached on this service, which he promptly performed. Two or three of the ringleaders were executed on the spot, and complete subordination was restored in the brigade. The mutiny was suppressed, but causes of uneasiness remained, and these were not confined to the army. The money received into the national treasury from taxes imposed by state authorities, bore no proportion to the publick expense. The magazines were exhausted, and the states were so deficient in furmishing provisions for the army, that supplies of every description were of necessity obtained by impressment. Publick credit being gone, the certificates of property in this manner taken, were considered of little value, and general uneasiness and murmuring ensued. These evils threatened the destruction of the army, and the loss of the American cause, unless a vital remedy was speedily applied to the publick disease. The Court of London became intimately acquainted with the interiour situation of the United States, and in consequence entertained sanguine expectations of a complete conquest of the States south of the Hudson. The letters of Lord George Germaine to Sir Henry Clinton, which were written at this period, urged him in the strongest language, to embrace the favourable opportunity to disperse the remnant of General WAshINGton's army, and to push his conquest of the revolted colonies. The spring of 1781 opened a gloomy prospect to the Commander in Chief. Congress had made a requisition upon the several states for an army consisting of thirty-seven thousand men. In May, the states, from New-Jersey to New-Hampshire inclusive, had not in the field more than seven thousand infantry. The men were generally new recruits, and time had not been given to discipline them. The cavalry and artillery, at no period during the campaign, amounted to one thousand men. Supplies of provisions were greatly deficient, and the soldiers were almost naked, the clothing for the army, expected from Europe, not having arrived. The Quarter Master's department had neither funds nor credit, and the transportation of stores could be made only by impressments, aided by a military force. Measures of this violent nature excited great uneasiness among the inhabitants; and General WashingtoN expected that actual resistance would be made to them. These difficulties had been foreseen by the Commander in Chief, and he had made