Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

British, abandoning practically the eastern and middle States, would make one last desperate struggle for victory, and would make it in the south. Long before any one else, he appreciated this fact, and saw a peril looming large in that region, where everybody was considering the British invasion as little more than an exaggerated raid. He foresaw, too, that we should suffer more there than we had in the extreme north, because the south was full of Tories and less well organized. All this, however, did not change his own plans one jot. He believed that the south must work out its own salvation, as New York and New England had done with Burgoyne, and he felt sure that in the end it would be successful. But he would not go south, nor take his army there. The instinct of a great commander for the vital point in a war or a battle, is as keen as that of the tiger is said to be for the jugular vein of its victim. The British might overrun the north or invade the south, but he would stay where he was, with his grip upon New York and the Hudson Kiver. The tide of invasion might ebb and flow in this region or that, but the British were doomed if they could not divide the eastern colonies from the others. When the appointed hour came, he was ready to abandon everything and strike the final and fatal blow; but until then he waited and stood fast with his army, holding the great river in his grasp. He felt much more anxiety about the south than he had felt about the north, and expected Congress to consult him as to a commander, having made up his mind that Greene was the man to send. But Congress still believed in Gates, who had been making trouble for Washington all winter; and so Gates was sent, and Congress in due time got their lesson, and found once more that Washington understood men better than they did. In the north the winter was comparatively uneventful. The spring passed, and in June Clinton came out and took possession of Stony Point and Verplanck's Point, and began to fortify them. It looked a little as if Clinton might intend to get control of the Hudson by slow approaches, fortifying, and then advancing until he reached West Point. With this in mind, Washington at once determined to check the British by striking sharply at one of their new posts. Having made up his mind, he sent for Wayne and asked him if he would storm Stony Point. Tradition says that Wayne replied, "I will storm hell, if you will plan it." A true tradition, probably, in keeping with Wayne's character, and pleasant to us to-day as showing with a vivid gleam of rough human speech the utter confidence of the army in their leader, that confidence which only a great soldier can inspire. So Washington planned, and Wayne stormed, and Stony Point fell. It was a gallant and brilliant feat of arms, one of the most brilliant of the war. Over five hundred prisoners were taken, the guns were carried off, and the works destroyed, leaving the British to begin afresh with a good deal of increased caution and respect. Not long after, Harry Lee stormed Paulus Hook with equal success, and the British were checked and arrested, if they intended any extensive movement. On the frontier, Sullivan, after some delays, did his work effectively, ravaging the Indian towns and reducing them to quiet, thus taking away another annoyance and danger. In these various ways Clinton's circle of activity was steadily narrowed, but it may be doubted whether he had any coherent plan. The principal occupation of the British was to send out marauding expeditions and cut off outlying parties. Tryon burned and pillaged in Connecticut, Matthews in Virginia, and others on a smaller scale elsewhere in New Jersey and New York. The blundering stupidity of this system of warfare was only equalled by its utter brutality. Houses were burned, peaceful villages went up in smoke, women and children were outraged, and soldiers were bayoneted after they had surrendered. These details of the Revolution are wellnigh forgotten now, but when the ear is wearied with talk about English generosity and love of fair play, it is well to turn back and study the exploits of Tryon, and it is not amiss in the same connection to recall that English budgets contained a special appropriation for scalping-knives, a delicate attention to the Tories and Indians who were burning and butchering on the frontier. Such methods of warfare Washington despised intellectually, and hated morally. He saw that every raid only hardened the people against England, and made her cause more hopeless. The misery caused by these raids angered him, but he would not retaliate in kind, and Wayne bayoneted no English soldiers after they laid down their arms at Stony Point. It was enough for Washington to hold fast to the great objects he had in view, to check Clinton and circumscribe his movements. Steadfastly he did this through the summer and winter of 1779, which proved one of the worst that he had yet endured. Supplies did not come, the army dwindled, and the miseries of Valley Forge were renewed. Again was repeated the old and pitiful story of appeals to Congress and the States, and again the undaunted spirit and strenuous exertions of Washington saved the army and the Revolution from the internal ruin which was his worst enemy. When the new year began, he saw that he was again condemned to a defensive campaign, but this made little difference now, for what he had foreseen in the spring of 1779 became certainty in the autumn. The active war was transferred to the south, where the chapter of disasters was beginning, and Clinton had practically given up everything except New York. The war had taken on the new phase expected by Washington. Weak as he was, he began to detach troops, and prepared to deal with the last desperate effort of England to conquer her revolted colonies from the south. CHAPTER IX.

Arnold's Treason, And The Wab In The
South.

The spring of 1780 was the beginning of a period of inactivity and disappointment, of diligent effort and frustrated plans. During the months which ensued before the march to the south, Washington passed through a stress of harassing anxiety, which was far worse than anything he had to undergo at any other time. Plans were formed, only to fail. Opportunities arose, only to pass by unfulfilled. The network of hostile conditions bound him hand and foot, and it seemed at times as if he could never break the bonds that held him, or prevent or hold back the moral, social, and political dissolution going on about him. With the aid of France, he meant to strike one decisive blow, and end the struggle. Every moment was of importance, and yet the days and weeks and months slipped by, and he could get nothing done. He could neither gain control of the sea, nor gather sufficient forces of his own, although delay now meant ruin. He saw the British overrun the south, and he could not leave the Hudson. He was obliged to sacri

« ZurückWeiter »