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would have been totally routed had not his strength been estimated above its real amount.
The movement of Cornwallis into Virginia had been wholly disapproved by Clinton who complained that, contrary to all his views and intentions, the main theater of war had been transferred to a territory into which he never proposed more than partial inroads, considering it very difficult to subdue and maintain. His grand object had always been first to secure New York and, if sufficient strength was afforded, to push offensive operations thence into the interior. Hoping, therefore, that the Carolinas, once subdued, might be retained by a small force, he had repeatedly solicited the partial return of the troops. Cornwallis defended the movement by observing that his situation at Wilmington, allowing no time to send for instructions, obliged him to act on his own responsibility. Communicating also with the government at home he urged that the Carolinas could not be securely held without the possession also of Virginia; that this might be attained by a vigorous effort, and would make Britain mistress of all the southern Colonies, whose resources could be then employed in conquering the more stubborn regions of the North. These arguments, recommended by his lordship’s brilliant achievements at Camden and elsewhere, convinced the ministry, and Lord Germaine wrote to the Commander-in-Chief to direct his principal attention to the war in Virginia and to the plan of conquest from south to north. The latter, considering himself thus slighted, solicited permission to resign and leave the command to an officer who enjoyed greater confidence, but his merits being highly estimated this tender was not accepted.
Under the apprehension inspired by the threatening movements of Washington and the French army against New York, he had ordered a considerable reinforcement from Virginia, but countermanded it on receiving the above instructions, along with an additional body of troops. He had formed, apparently, a favorite plan somewhat of a compromise between the two. It is nowhere distinctly developed in his letters, but by a passage in one very active operations were proposed at the head of the Chesapeake, to be combined probably with a movement from New York and comprehending Philadelphia and Baltimore. Aware that this plan required the maritime command of that great inlet, he inquired if ministers would insure its maintenance, and they made this engagement without duly considering its difficulties. Under these views he directed Cornwallis to occupy and fortify a naval position at the entrance of the bay, specially recommending Old Point Comfort, at the mouth of James river. This measure did not harmonize with Cornwallis' views; however, he obeyed, but, the above position being declared by the engineers indefensible, he recommended, in preference, Yorktown on the York river, which was agreed to and operations actively commenced at the latter end of August. The whole British force at this time in Virginia was about 7,000 men.
WASHINGTON CAPTURES CORNWALLIS.
INTE have already seen, by the quotation from WashVV ington's journal, how gloomy was the prospect
presented to him at this time. He evidently saw little to encourage a hope of the favorable termination of the campaign of that year. Indeed, it is quite apparent that our national affairs were then at a lower ebb than they had ever been since the period immediately preceding the battle of Trenton. But by the merciful interposition of divine Providence, the course of events took a favorable turn much sooner than he had anticipated. His letter to Col. John Laurens, on the occasion, already mentioned, of that gentleman's mission to France to obtain a loan, had been productive of remarkable effects.
In this paper he detailed the pecuniary embarrassments of the government, and represented with great earnestness the inability of the nation to furnish a revenue adequate to the support of the war. He dwelt on the discontents which the system of impressment had excited among the people, and expressed his fears that the evils felt in the prosecution of the war, might weaken the sentiments which began it.
From this state of things he deduced the vital importance of an immediate and ample supply of money, which might be the foundation for substantial arrangements of finance, for reviving public credit, and giving vigor to future operations, as well as of a decided effort of the allied arms on the continent to effect the great objects of the alliance in the ensuing campaign.
Next to a supply of money he considered a naval superiority in the American seas as an object of the deepest interest.
To the United States it would be of decisive importance, and France also might derive great advantages from transferring the maritime war to the coast of her ally.
The future ability of the United States to repay any loan which might now be obtained was displayed, and he concluded with assurances that there was still a fund of inclination and resource in the country, equal to great and continued exertions, provided the means were afforded of stopping the progress of disgust by changing the present system and adopting another more consonant with the spirit of the nation, and more capable of infusing activity and energy into public measures, of which a powerful succor in money must be the basis. “The people were discontented, but it was with the feeble and oppressive mode of conducting the war, not with the war itself.”
With great reason did Washington urge on the cabinet of Versailles the policy of advancing a sum of money to the United States which might be adequate to the exigency. Deep was the gloom with which the political horizon was then overcast. The British in possession of South Carolina and Georgia had overrun the greater part of North Carolina also, and it was with equai hazard and address that Greene maintained himself in the northern frontier of that State.
A second detachment from New York was making a deep impression on Virginia, where the resistance isad been neither so prompt nor so vigorous as the strength
of that State and the unanimity of its citizens had given reason to expect.
Such were the facts and arguments urged by Washington in his letter to Colonel Laurens. Its able exposition of the actual state of the country, and his arguments in support of the application of Congress for a fleet and army as well as money, when laid before the King and the ministry, decided them to afford the most ample aid to the American cause. A loan of $6,000,000 was granted, which was to be placed at Washington's disposal, but he was happy to be relieved from that responsibility. A loan from Holland was also guaranteed by the French government, and large reinforcements of ships and men were sent to the United States. The intelligence of these succors followed within a few days after the desponding tone of Washington's journal, to which we have just referred.
Early in May (1781) the Count de Barras, who had been appointed to the command of the French fleet on the American coast, arrived at Boston, accompanied by the Viscount de Rochambeau, commander of the land forces. An interview between Washington and the French commanders was immediately appointed to be held at Wethersfield, near Hartford, on the 21st (May, 1781), but some movements of the British fleet made de Barras repair to Newport, while the two generals met at the appointed place and agreed on a plan of the campaign. It was resolved to unite the French and American armies on the Hudson and to commence vigorous operations against New York. The regular army at that station was estimated at only 4,500 men, and though Sir Henry Clinton might be able to reinforce it with 5,000 or 6,000 militia, yet it was believed he could not maintain the post without recalling a considerable part of his troops from the southward and enfeebling the operations of the British in that