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1756.] LOUDOUN IN WINTER QUARTERS. 179
frame. Quick in thought, quick in speech, quicker still in action, he comprehended everything at a glance, and moved from point to point of the province with a celerity and secrecy that completely baffled his slow and pondering antagonists. Crown Point and Ticonderoga were visited, and steps taken to strengthen their works and provide for their security; then hastening to Montreal, he put himself at the head of a force of regulars, Canadians, and Indians; ascended the St. Lawrence to Lake Ontario; blocked up the mouth of the Onondaga by his vessels, landed his guns, and besieged the two forts; drove the garrison out of one into the other, killed the commander, Colonel Mercer, and compelled the garrisons to surrender prisoners of war. With the forts was taken an immense amount of military stores, ammunition, and provisions; one hundred and twenty-one cannon, fourteen mortars, six vessels of war, a vast number of batteaux, and three chests of money. His blow achieved, Montcalm returned in triumph to Montreal, and sent the colours of the captured forts to be hung up as trophies in the Canadian churches.
The season was now too far advanced for Lord Loudoun to enter upon any great military enterprise; he postponed, therefore, the great Northern campaign, so much talked of and debated, until the following year, and having taken measures for the protection of his frontiers, and for more active operations in the spring, returned to New York, hung up his sword, and went into comfortable winter quarters.
Washington vindicates his conduct to Lord Loudoun—His reception by his Lordship—Military Plans—Lord Loudoun at Halifax—Montcalm on Lake George— His Triumphs—Lord Loudoun's Failures— Washington at Winchester—Continued Misunderstandings with Dinwiddle—Return to Mount Vernon.
CracuMSTANCES had led Washington to think that Lord Loudoun "had received impressions to his prejudice by false representations of facts," and that a wrong idea prevailed at head-quarters respecting the state of military affairs in Virginia. He was anxious, therefore, for an opportunity of placing all these matters in a proper light; and, understanding that there was to be a meeting in Philadelphia, in the month of March, between Lord Loudoun and the southern governors, to consult about measures of defence for their respective provinces, he wrote to Governor Dinwiddie for permission to attend it.
"I cannot conceive," writes Dinwiddie, in reply, "what service you can be of in going there, as the plan concerted will, in course, be communicated to you and the other officers. However, as you seem so earnest to go, I now give you leave."
This ungracious reply seemed to warrant the suspicions entertained by some of Washington's friends, that it was the busy pen of Governor Dinwiddie which had given the "false representation of facts" to Lord Loudoun. About a month, therefore, before the time of the meeting, Washington addressed a long letter to his lordship, explanatory of military affairs in the quarter where he had commanded. In this he set forth the various defects in the militia laws of Virginia, the errors in its system of defence, and the inevitable confusion which had thence resulted.
Adverting to his own conduct: "The orders I receive," said he, "are full of ambiguity. I am left like a wanderer in the wilderness to proceed at hazard. I am answerable for consequences, and blamed, without the privilege of defence. * * • * It is not to be wondered at if, under such peculiar circumstances, I should be sick of a service which promises so little of a soldier's reward.
"I have long been satisfied of the impossibility of continuing in this service without loss of honour. Indeed, I was fully convinced of it before I accepted the command the second time, seeing the cloudy prospect before me; and I did, for this reason, reject the offer, until I was ashamed any longer" to refuse, not caring to expose my character to public censure. The solicitations of the country overcame my objections and induced me to accept it. Another reason has of late operated to continue me in the service until now, and that is, the dawn of hope that arose when I heard your lordship was destined, by his Majesty, for the important command of his armies in America, and appointed to the government of his dominion
of Virginia. Hence it was that I drew my hopes, and fondly pronounced your lordship our patron. Although I have not the honour to be known to your lordship, yet your name was familiar to my ear on account of the important services rendered to his Majesty in other parts of the world."
The manner in which Washington was received by Lord Loudoun, on arriving in Philadelphia, showed him at once that his long explanatory letter had produced the desired effect, and that his character and conduct were justly appreciated. During his sojourn in Philadelphia, he was frequently consulted on points of frontier service, and his advice was generally adopted. On one point it failed. He advised that an attack should be made on Fort Duquesne, simultaneous with the attempts on Canada. At such time a great part of the garrison would be drawn away to aid in the defence of that province, and a blow might be struck more likely to insure the peace and safety of the southern frontier than all its forts and defences.
Lord Loudoun, however, was not to be convinced, or at least persuaded. According to his plan, the middle and southern provinces were to maintain a merely defensive warfare; and as Virginia would be required to send four hundred of her troops to the aid of South Carolina, she would, in fact, be left weaker than before.
"Washington was also disappointed a second time in the hope of having his regiment placed on the same footing as the regular army, and of obtaining a king's commission; the latter he was destined never to hold.
His representations with respect to Fort Cumberland had the desired effect in counteracting the mischievous intermeddling of Dinwiddie. The Virginia troops and stores were ordered to be again removed to Fort Loudoun, at Winchester, which once more became head-quarters, while Fort Cumberland was left to be occupied by a Maryland garrison. Washington was instructed, likewise, to correspond and co-operate, in military affairs, with Colonel Stanwix, who was stationed on the Pennsylvania frontier, with five hundred men from the Eoyal American regiment, and to whom he would be, in some measure subordinate. This proved a correspondence of friendship, as well as duty; Colonel Stanwix being a gentleman of high. moral worth, as well as great ability in military affairs.
The great plan of operations at the north was again doomed to failure. The reduction of Crown Point, on Lake Champlain, which had long been meditated, was laid aside, and the capture of Louisburg substituted, as an acquisition of far greater importance. This was a place of great consequence, situated on the isle of Cape Breton, and strongly fortified. It commanded the fisheries of Newfoundland, overawed New England, and was a main bulwark to Acadia.
In the course of July, Lord Loudoun set sail for Halifax with all the troops he could collect, amounting to about six thousand men, to join with Admiral Holbourne, who had just arrived at that port with eleven ships of the line, a fire-ship, bomb-ketch, and fleet of transports, having on board six thousand men. With this united force Lord Loudoun anticipated the certain capture of Louisburg.
Scarce had the tidings of his Lordship's departure reached Canada, than the active Montcalm again took the field, to follow up the successes of the preceding year. Fort William Henry, which Sir Wm. Johnson had erected on the southern shore of Lake George, was now his object; it commanded the lake, and was an important protection to the British frontier. A brave old officer, Colonel Monro, with about five hundred men, formed the garrison; more than three times that number of militia were intrenched near by. Montcalm had, early in the season, made three ineffectual attempts upon the fort, he now trusted to be more successful. Collecting his forces from Crown Point, Ticonderoga, and the adjacent ports, with a considerable number of Canadians and Indians, altogether nearly eight thousand men, he advanced up the lake, on the 1st of August, in a fleet of boats with swarms of Indian canoes in the advance. The fort came near being surprised; but the
hurried within the works. A summons to surrender was answered by a brave defiance. Montcalm invested the fort, made his approaches, and battered it with his artillery. For five days its veteran commander kept up a vigorous defence, trusting to receive assistance from Gene*
troops encamped without
1757.] MONTCALM ON LAKE GEORGE. 193
ral Webb, who had failed to relieve Fort Oswego in the preceding year, and who was now at Fort Edward, about fifteen miles distant, with upwards of five thousand men. Instead of this, Webb, who overrated the French forces, sent him a letter, advising him to capitulate. The letter was intercepted by Montcalm, but still forwarded to Monro. The obstinate old soldier, however, persisted in his defence, until most of his cannon were burst, and his ammunition expended. At length, in the month of August, he hung out a flag of truce, and obtained honourable terras from an enemy who knew how to appreciate his valour. Montcalm demolished the fort, carried off all the artillery, and munitions of war, with vessels employed in the navigation of the lake ; and having thus completed his destruction of the British defences on this frontier, returned once more in triumph with the spoils of victory, to hang up fresh trophies in the churches of Canada.
Lord Loudoun, in the mean time, formed his junction with Admiral Holbourne at Halifax, and the troops were embarked with all diligence on board of the transports. Unfortunately, the French were again too quick for them. Admiral de Bois de la Mothe had arrived at Louisburg, with a large naval and land force; it was ascertained that he had seventeen ships of the line, and three frigates, quietly moored in the harbour; that the place was well fortified and supplied with provisions and ammunition, and garrisoned with six thousand regular troops, three thousand natives, and thirteen hundred Indians.
Some hotheads would have urged an attempt against all such array of force, but Lord Loudoun was aware of the probability of defeat, and the disgrace and ruin that it would bring upon British arms in America. He wisely, though ingloriously, returned to New York. Admiral Holbourne made a silly demonstration of his fleet off the harbour of Louisburg, approaching within two miles of the batteries, but retired on seeing the French Admiral preparing to unmoor. He afterwards returned with a reinforcement of four ships of the line; cruised before Louisburg, endeavouring to draw the enemy to an engagement, which De la Mothe had the wisdom to decline; was overtaken by a hurricane, in which one of his ships was lost,