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the continent with enthusiasm; but at this very moment, while Washington was breaking camp and marching southward, Congress was considering the reduction of the army ! — which was as appropriate as it would have been for the English Parliament to have reduced the navy on the eve of Trafalgar, or for Lincoln to have advised the restoration of the army to a peace footing while Grant was fighting in the Wilderness. The fact was that the Continental Congress was weakened in ability and very tired in point of nerve and will-power. They saw that peace was coming, and naturally thought that the sooner they could get it the better. They entirely failed to see, as Washington saw, that in a too sudden peace lurked the danger of the uti possidetis, and that the mere fact of peace by no means implied necessarily complete success. They did not, of course, effect their reductions, but they remained inert, and so for the most part did the state governments, becoming drags upon the wheels of war instead of helpers to the man who was driving the Revolution forward to its goal. Both state and confederate governments still meant well, but they were worn out and relaxed. Yet over and through all these heavy masses of misapprehension and feebleness, Washington made his way. Here again all that can be said is that somehow or other the thing was done. We can take account of the resisting forces, but we cannot tell just how they were dealt with. We only know that one strong man trampled them down and got what he wanted done.
Pushing on after the joyful news of the arrival of De Grasse had been received, Washington left the army to go by water from the Head of Elk, and hurried to Mount Vernon, accompanied by De Rochambeau. It was six years since he had seen his home. He had left it a Virginian colonel, full of foreboding's for his country, with a vast and unknown problem awaiting solution at his hands. He returned to it the first soldier of his day, after six years of battle and trial, of victory and defeat, on the eve of the last and crowning triumph. As he paused on the well-beloved spot, and gazed across the broad and beautiful river at his feet, thoughts and remembrances must have come thronging to his mind which it is given to few men to know. He lingered there two days, and then pressing on again, was in Williamsburg on the 14th, and on the lTth went on board the Ville de Paris to congratulate De Grasse on his victory, and to concert measures for the siege.
The meeting was most agreeable. All had gone well, all promised well, and everything was smiling and harmonious. Yet they were on the eve of the greatest peril which occurred in the campaign. Washington had managed to scrape together enough transports; but his almost unassisted labors had taken time, and delay had followed. Then the transports were slow, and winds and tides were uncertain, and there was further delay. The interval permitted De Grasse to hear that the British fleet had received reinforcements, and to become nervous in consequence. He wanted to get out to sea; the season was advancing, and he was anxious to return to the West Indies; and above all he did not wish to fight in the bay. He therefore proposed firmly and vigorously to leave two ships in the river, and stand out to sea with his fleet. The Yorktown campaign began to look as if it had reached its conclusion. Once again Washington wrote one of his masterly letters of expostulation and remonstrance, and once more he prevailed, aided by the reasoning and appeals of Lafayette, who carried the message. De Grasse consented to stay, and Washington, grateful beyond measure, wrote him that “a great mind knows how to make personal sacrifice to secure an important general good.” Under the circumstances, and in view of the general truth of this complimentary sentiment, one cannot help rejoicing that De Grasse had “a great mind.” At all events he stayed, and thereafter everything went well. The northern army landed at Wil. liamsburg and marched for Yorktown on the 28th. They reconnoitred the outlying works the next day, and prepared for an immediate assault; but in the night Cornwallis abandoned all his outside works and withdrew into the town. Washington thereupon advanced at once, and prepared for the siege. On the night of the 5th, the trenches were opened only six hundred yards from the enemy's line, and in three days the first parallel was completed. On the 11th the second parallel was be
gun, and on the 14th the American batteries played on the two advanced redoubts with such effect that the breaches were pronounced practicable. Washington at once ordered an assault. The smaller redoubt was stormed by the Americans under Hamilton and taken in ten minutes. The other, larger and more strongly garrisoned, was carried by the French with equal gallantry, after half an hour's fighting. During the assault Washington stood in an embrasure of the grand battery, watching the advance of the men. He was always given to exposing himself recklessly when there was fighting to be done, but not when he was only an observer. This night, however, he was much exposed to the enemy's fire. One of his aides, anxious and disturbed for his safety, told him that the place was perilous. "If you think so," was the quiet answer, "you are at liberty to step back." The moment was too exciting, too fraught with meaning, to think of peril. The old fighting spirit of Braddock's field was unchained for the last time. He would have liked to head the American assault, sword in hand, and as he could not do that he stood as near his troops as he could, utterly regardless of the bullets whistling in the air about him. Who can wonder at his intense excitement at that moment? Others saw a brilliant storming of two outworks, but to Washington the whole Re volution, and all the labor and thought and conflict of six years were culminating in the smoke and din on those redoubts, while out of the dust and heat of the sharp quick fight success was coming. He had waited long, and worked hard, and his whole soul went out as he watched the troops cross the abattis and scale the works. He could have no thought of danger then, and when all was over he turned to Knox and said, "The work is done, and well done. Bring me my horse."
Washington was not mistaken. The work was indeed done. Tarleton early in the siege had dashed out against Lauzun on the other side of the river and been repulsed. Cornwallis had been forced back steadily into the town, and his redoubts, as soon as taken, were included in the second parallel. A sortie to retake the redoubts failed, and a wild attempt to transport the army across the river was stopped by a gale of wind. On the 17th Cornwallis was compelled to face much bloody and useless slaughter, or to surrender. He chose the latter course, and after opening negotiations and trying in vain to obtain delay, finally signed the capitulation and gave up the town. The next day the troops marched out and laid down their arms. Over 7000 British and Hessian troops surrendered. It was a crushing defeat. The victorious army consisted in round numbers of 5500 continentals, 3500 militia, and 7000 French, and they were backed by the French fleet with entire control of the sea.
When Washington had once reached Yorktown with his fleet and army, the campaign was really at an end, for he held Cornwallis in an iron grip from which there was no escape. The masterly part of