« ZurückWeiter »
EXPEDITION OF ARNOLD INTO VIRGINIA.—BUCCANEERING RAVAGES.- CHECKED
BY STEUBEN.-ARNOLD AT PORTSMOUTH.—CONGRESS RESOLVES TO FORM HEADS OF DEPARTMENTS.-HAMILTON SUGGESTED BY SULLIVAN FOR DEPARTMENT OF FINANCE.-HIGI OPINION OF HIM EXPRESSED BY WASHINGTON.-MISUNDERSTANDING BETWEEN HAMILTON AND THE COMMANDER-INCHIEF.
PAVAHE armament with which Arnold boasted he
was “ to shake the continent,” met with that
boisterous weather which often rages along our coast in the winter. His ships were tempest-tost and scattered, and half of his cavalry horses and several of his guns had to be thrown overboard. It was the close of the year when he anchored in the Chesapeake.
Virginia, at the time, was almost in a defenseless state. Baron Steuben, who had the general command there, had recently detached such of his regular troops as were clothed and equipped, to the South, to reinforce General Greene. The remainder, five or six hundred in number, deficient in clothing, blankets, and tents, were scarcely fit to take the field, and the volunteers and militia lately encamped before Portsmouth, had been disbanded. Govo ernor Jefferson, on hearing of the arrival of the fleet,
RAVAGING INCURSION OF ARNOLD.
called out the militia from the neighboring counties ; but few could be collected on the spur of the moment, for the whole country was terror-stricken and in confusion. Having land and sea forces at his command, Arnold opened the new year with a buccaneering ravage. Ascending James River with some small vessels which he had captured, he landed on the fourth of January with nine hundred men at Westover, about twenty-five miles below Richmond, and pushed for the latter place, at that time little more than a village, though the metropolis of Virginia, Halting for the night within twelve miles of it, he advanced on the following day with as much military parade as possible, so as to strike terror into a militia patrol, which fled back to Richmond, reporting that a British force, fifteen hundred strong, was at hand.
It was Arnold's hope to capture the governor; but the latter, after providing for the security of as much as possible of the public stores, had left Richmond the evening before on horseback to join his family at Tuckahoe, whence, on the following day, he conveyed them to a place of safety. Governor Jefferson got back by noon to Manchester, on the opposite side of James River, in time to see Arnold's marauders march into the town. Many of the inhabitants had fled to the country ; some stood terrified spectators on the hills, not more than two hundred men were in arms for the defense of the place ; these, after firing a few volleys, retreated to Richmond and Shockoe Hills, whence they were driven by the cave alry, and Arnold had possession of the capital. He sent some of the citizens to the governor, offering to spare the town, provided his ships might come up James River to be laden with tobacco from the warehouses. His offer was indignantly rejected, whereupon fire was set to the public edifices, stores, and workshops ; private houses were pillaged, and a great quantity of tobacco consumed.
While this was going on, Colonel Simcoe had been detached to Westham, six miles up the river, where he destroyed a cannon foundry and sacked a public magazine ; broke off the trunnions of the cannon, and threw into the river the powder which he could not carry away, and, after effecting a complete devastation, rejoined Arnold at Richmond, which during the ensuing night resounded with the drunken orgies of the soldiery.
Having completed his ravage at Richmond, Arnold reëmbarked at Westover and fell slowly down the river, landing occasionally to burn, plunder, and destroy; pursued by Steuben with a few continental troops and all the militia that he could muster. General Nelson, also, with similar levies opposed him. Lower down the river some skirmishing took place, a few of Arnold's troops were killed and a number wounded, but he made his way to Portsmouth, opposite Norfolk, where he took post on the 20th of January, and proceeded to fortify.
Steuben would have attempted to drive him from this position, but his means were totally inadequate. Collecting from various parts of the country all the force
IMPORTANT RESOLUTION OF CONGRESS.
that could be mustered, he so disposed it at different points as to hem the traitor in, prevent his making further incursions, and drive him back to his intrenchments should he attempt any.
Governor Jefferson returned to Richmond after the enəmy had left it, and wrote thence to the commander-inchief an account of this ravaging incursion of “the parricide Arnold.” It was mortifying to Washington to see so inconsiderable a party committing such extensive depredations with impunity, but it was his opinion that their principal object was to make a diversion in favor of Cornwallis ; and as the evils to be apprehended from Arnold's predatory incursions were not to be compared with the injury to the common cause and the danger to Virginia in particular, which would result from the conquest of the States to the southward, he adjured Jefferson not to permit attention to immediate safety so to engross his thoughts as to divert him from measures for reinforcing the southern army.
About this time an important resolution was adopted in Congress. Washington had repeatedly, in his communications to that body, attributed much of the distresses and disasters of the war to the congressional mode of conducting business through committees and “boards,” thus causing irregularity and delay, preventing secrecy and augmenting expense. He was greatly rejoiced, therefore, when Congress decided to appoint heads of departments; secretaries of foreign affairs, of
war and of marine, and a superintendent of finance. “1 am happy, thrice happy, on private as well as public ac count," writes he, “ to find that these are in train. For it will ease my shoulders of an immense burthen, which the deranged and perplexed situation of our affairs, and the distresses of every department of the army, had placed upon them.”
General Sullivan, to whom this was written, and who was in Congress, was a warm friend of Washington's aide-de-camp, Colonel Hamilton, and he sounded the commander-in-chief as to the qualifications of the colonel to take charge of the department of finance. “I am unable to answer,” replied Washington, “because I never entered upon a discussion with him, but this I can venture to advance, from a thorough knowledge of him, that there are few men to be found of his age, who have more general knowledge than he possesses; and none whose soul is more firmly engaged in the cause, or who exceeds him in probity and sterling virtue.”
This was a warm eulogium for one of Washington's circumspect character, but it was sincere. Hamilton had been four years in his military family, and always treated by him with marked attention and regard. Indeed, it had surprised many to see so young a man admitted like a veteran into his counsels. It was but a few days after Washington had penned the eulogium just quoted, when a scene took place between him and the man he had praised so liberally, that caused him deep chagrin. We