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inforcements to the Continental line, and for militia, and are in the mean time establishing our communication at Dobbs's Ferry.
I shall shortly have occasion to communicate matters of very great importance to you, so much so, that I shall send a confidential officer on purpose. You will in the mean time endeavour to draw together as respectable a body of Continental troops as you possibly can, and take every measure to augment your cavalry. Should the enemy confine themselves to the lower
movements of Lord Cornwallis may answer better purposes than that in the military line.” – MS. Letter, June 28th.
In the following letter to the governor of Virginia of the same date, Lafayette gives an account of the recent action.
“ Colonel Simcoe was so lucky as to avoid a part of the stroke ; but, although the whole of the light corps could not arrive in time, some of them did. Major Macpherson, having taken up fifty light infantry behind fifty dragoons, overtook Simcoe, and, regardless of numbers, made an immediate charge. He was supported by the riflemen, who behaved most gallantly and did great execution. The alarm-guns were fired at Williamsburg (only six miles distant from the field). A detachment just then going to Gloucester was recalled, and the whole British army came out to save Simcoe. They retired next morning, when our army got within striking distance.
“Our loss is two captains, two lieutenants, ten privates wounded ; two lieutenants, one sergeant, six privates killed; one lieutenant, twelve privates, whose fate is not known; one sergeant taken. The enemy had about sixty killed, among whom are several officers, and about one hundred wounded. They acknowledge the action was smart, and Lord Cornwallis was heard to express himself vehemently upon the disproportion between his and our killed, which must be attributed to the great skill of our riflemen. This little success has given great satisfaction to the troops, and increased their ardor. I have put all the riflemen under Campbell. To-morrow I intend to reconnoitre a position below Byrd's Ordinary. Your return to Richmond, and this little affair, will particularly mark his Lordship’s retreat, and the recovery of every part of the State not under naval protection.” - MS. Letter, June 28th.
Count de Rochambeau, speaking of this skirmish in a letter to the minister of war in France, said, “ The Marquis de Lafayette has conducted himself extremely well during this campaign in Virginia ; advancing upon the enemy and retreating, as occasion required, with prudence and skill."
country, you will no doubt pay attention to the formation of magazines above. These will be in every case essential, whether the war continues in Virginia, or whether it shall still be carried on in South Carolina. Should General Greene come into Virginia in person, you will be good enough to communicate the foregoing to him.
In the present situation of asfairs, it is of the utmost importance that a communication by a chain of expresses should be opened between this army and that in Virginia. They are already established from hence to Philadelphia, and if there is none from you to Philadelphia, you will be pleased to take measures for having it formed. You will also endeavour to establish such a communication with the coast, as to be able to know whether any troops are detached by sea from Lord Cornwallis's army ; for it is more than probable, that, if he finds himself baffled in attempting to overrun Virginia, he will take a strong post at Portsmouth, or Williamsburg, and reinforce New York or South Carolina. Should any detachment be made, you will transmit to me the earliest intelligence. What you say in confidence of the conduct of a certain officer shall be kept a profound secret, and I will contrive means of removing him from the quarter where he is so unpopular.
The Rhode Island regiment is so thinly officered, that Colonel Olney wishes one of the subalterns of the light company may be suffered to return, when Captain Olney joins. You will act in this as circumstances may permit. You have the compliments and good wishes of all your friends in the French army. Those of the American are not behindhand with them. With the warmest affection and esteem, I am, &c.
TO THE SUPERINTENDENT OF FINANCE.
Head-Quarters, near Dobbs's Ferry, 13 July, 1781. DEAR SIR, Your favors of the 2d and 5th instant have afforded me infinite satisfaction, as the measures you are pursuing for subsisting the army perfectly accord with my ideas, and are, I am certain, the only ones, which can secure us from distress or the constant apprehensions of it.* Had magazines of any consequence been forined in the different States, in pursuance of the late requisitions of Congress, the disposal of the articles collected at a distance from the army would have merited your attention ; but so little has been done in that way, that I imagine you will not think the matter worthy of notice, when I inform you of the trifling quantities which remain on hand. No magazines of flour have been formed at any place. No salt meat was put up in Pennsylvania, Jersey, or New York. There had been, by estimate, seven or eight thousand barrels of meat and fish put up in Connecticut, of which between two and three thousand have come forward, and the remainder is, I believe, in motion. Massachusetts put up very little salt meat, and most of it has been consumed upon the communication by the recruits, or transported to Albany. Rhode Island purchased one thousand barrels, of which about six hundred remain at Providence, and I would wish them to be still kept there for a particular purpose. I could never learn, with certainty, how much was put up in New Hampshire; but I have directed all that was at Portsmouth to be transported by water to Providence, as I wish to form a small magazine of salt provision at that place, as I mentioned before, for a particular purpose. No magazines of rum have been formed. We have been in a manner destitute of that necessary article, and what we are now likely to draw from the several States will be from hand to mouth. From the foregoing state of facts you will perceive in how small a degree the requisitions of Congress have been complied with, and may form a judgment of the miserable manner in which the army has been subsisted.
* By a resolve of Congress, Robert Morris, as superintendent of finance, was vested with powers to dispose of the specific supplies, which had been required to be furnished by the several States, in such manner as he, with the advice of the Commander-in-chief, should judge best suited to promote the public interest, and answer the purposes of the present campaign.- Journals, June 4th. It was the opinion of Mr. Morris, that all these supplies should be sold, on the best terins that could be obtained, and that the army should in future be supplied by contracts. The plan of specific supplies had proved very inoperative, both from the tardiness of the States in complying with the requisitions, and from the great expense attending transportation. In some instances, where the magazines were distant, the articles could be bought and furnished near the army for a less amount, than it would cost to transport them from the places of deposit.
Having lately, at the request of the Board of War, furnished them with my opinion of the quantity of provision, which ought to be laid up at the several posts, they will be able, at the interview which you propose to have with them, to lay before you my ideas upon the subject of a contract for supplying the army. I beg you to be assured, that I never can think your correspondence tedious or troublesome. Duty as well as inclination will always prompt me to listen with pleasure to your observations upon the state of our public affairs; and I shall think myself happy, if I can in any manner contribute to assist you in the arduous task you have undertaken. I shall very anxiously wait for the visit, which you promise to make me. I am, with very sincere respect and esteem, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL LORD STIRLING.
Head-Quarters, near Dobbs's Ferry, 14 July, 1781. MY LORD, While I am with the detachment of the army below, you will remain in command here. Your principal attention will be paid to the good order of the camp, and the security of the baggage and stores left in it. There will be no need of advanced pickets, as you will be fully covered in front. The camp guards should be vigilant, and the officers commanding them should see that the men are not permitted to straggle, or to plunder the baggage of the officers and soldiers.
The greatest harmony having hitherto subsisted between the French and American soldiers, your Lordship will be particularly careful to see that it is not interrupted by any act of imprudence on our part; and, as Baron Viomenil, who will command the French line, is older in commission than your Lordship, you will take the parole and countersign from him daily. It is scarcely probable that the enemy will make any attempt upon the camp, while so respectable a force is near their own lines. Should they do it, it must be by water. The officer commanding the water-guard will communicate any movement to Colonel Greaton at Dobbs's Ferry, who will give immediate intelligence to you, which you will of course transmit to Baron Viomenil. The party at Dobbs's Ferry being for the purpose of erecting a work there, they are not to be withdrawn for camp duties. I am, &c.