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The troops which Cornwallis intended to join had been sent in detachments to Virginia during the winter and spring. The first body had arrived early in January under the command of Arnold, and a general marauding and ravaging took place. A little later General Phillips arrived with reinforcements and took command. On May 13th, General Phillips died, and a week later Cornwallis appeared at Petersburg, assumed control, and sent Arnold back to New York.
Meantime Washington, though relieved by Morgan's and Greene's admirable work, had a most trying and unhappy winter and spring. He sent every man he could spare, and more than he ought to have spared, to Greene, and he stripped himself still further when the invasion of Virginia began. But for the most part he was obliged, from lack of any naval strength, to stand helplessly by and see more and more British troops sent to the south, and witness the ravaging of his native State, without any ability to prevent it. To these grave trials was added a small one, which stung him to the quick. The British came up the Potomac, and Lund Washington, in order to preserve Mount Vernon, gave them refreshments, and treated them in a conciliatory manner. He meant well but acted ill, and Washington wrote:
"It would have been a less painful circumstance to me to have heard that, in consequence of your non-compliance with their request, they had burnt my house and laid the plantation in ruins. You ought to have considered yourself as my representative, and should have reflected on the bad example of communicating with the enemy, and making a voluntary offer of refreshments to them, with a view to prevent a conflagration."
What a clear glimpse this little episode gives of the earnestness of the man who wrote these lines. He could not bear the thought that any favor should be shown him on any pretence. He was ready to take his share of the marauding and pillaging with the rest, but he was deeply indignant at the idea that any one representing him should even appear to ask a favor of the British.
Altogether, the spring of 1781 was very trying, for there was nothing so galling to Washington as to be unable to fight. He wanted to get to the south, but he was bound hand and foot by lack of force. Yet the obstacles did not daunt or depress him. He wrote in June that he felt sure of bringing the war to a happy conclusion, and in the division of the British forces he saw his opportunity taking shape. Greene had the southern forces well in hand. Cornwallis was equally removed from Clinton on the north and Rawdon on the south, and had come within reach; so that if he could but have naval strength he could fall upon Cornwallis with superior force and crush him. In naval matters fortune thus far had dealt hardly with him, yet he could not but feel that a French fleet of sufficient force must soon come. He grasped the situation with a master-hand, and began to prepare the way. Still he kept his counsel strictly to himself, and set to work to threaten, and if possible to attack, New York, not with much hope of succeeding in any such attempt, but with a view of frightening Clinton and of inducing him either to withdraw troops from Virginia, or at least to withhold reinforcements. As he began his Virginian campaign in this distant and remote fashion at the mouth of the Hudson, he was cheered by news that De Grasse, the French admiral, had sent recruits to Newport, and intended to come himself to the American coast. He at once wrote De Grasse not to determine absolutely to come to New York, hinting that it might prove more advisable to operate to the southward. It required great tact to keep the French fleet where he needed it, and yet not reveal his intentions, and nothing showed Washington's foresight more plainly than the manner in which he made the moves in this campaign, when miles of space and weeks of time separated him from the final object of his plans. To trace this mastery of details, and the skill with which every point was remembered and covered, would require a long and minute narrative. They can only be indicated here sufficiently to show how exactly each movement fitted in its place, and how all together brought the great result.
Fortified by the good news from De Grasse, Washington had an interview with De Rochambeau, and effected a junction with the French army. Thus strengthened, he opened his campaign against Cornwallis by beginning a movement against Clinton. The troops were massed above the city, and an effort was made to surprise the upper posts and destroy Delancey's partisan corps. The attempt, although well planned, failed of its immediate purpose, giving Washington opportunity only for an effective reconnoissance of the enemy's-positions. But the move was perfectly successful in its real and indirect object. Clinton was alarmed. He began to write to Cornwallis that troops should be returned to New York, and he gave up absolutely the idea of sending more men to Virginia. Having thus convinced Clinton that New York was menaced, Washington then set to work to familiarize skilfully the minds of his allies and of Congress with the idea of a southern campaign. With this end in view, he wrote on August 2d that, if more troops arrived from Virginia, New York would be impracticable, and that the next point was the south. The only contingency, as he set forth, was the all-important one of obtaining naval superiority. August 15th this essential condition gave promise of fulfilment, for on that day definite news arrived that De Grasse with his fleet was on his way to the Chesapeake. Without a moment's hesitation, Washington began to move, and at the same time he sent an urgent letter to the New England governors, demanding troops with an earnestness which he had never surpassed.
In Virginia, meanwhile, during these long midsummer days, while Washington was waiting and planning, Cornwallis had been going up and down, harrying! burning, and plundering. His cavalry had scattered the legislature, and driven Governor Jefferson in headlong flight over the hills, while property to the value of more than three millions had been destroyed. Lafayette, sent by Washington to maintain the American cause, had been too weak to act decisively, but he had been true to his general's teaching, and, refusing battle, had hung upon the flanks of the British and harassed and checked them. Joined by Wayne, he had fought an unsuccessful engagement at Green Springs, but brought off his army, and with steady pertinacity followed the enemy to the coast, gathering strength as he moved. Now, when all was at last ready, Washington began to draw his net about Cornwallis, whom he had been keenly watching during the victorious marauding of the summer. On the news of the coming of the French fleet, he wrote to Lafayette to be prepared to join him when he reached Virginia, to retain Wayne, who intended to join Greene, and to stop Cornwallis at all hazards, if he attempted to go southward.
Cornwallis, however, had no intention of moving. He had seen the peril of his position, and had wished to withdraw to Charleston; but the ministry, highly pleased with his performances, wished him to remain on the Chesapeake, and decisive orders came to him to take a permanent post m that region. Clinton, moreover, was jealous of Cornwallis, and, impressed and deceived by Wash