« ZurückWeiter »
trol over his actions other than that of advice ; yet after the surrender of Yorktown the Marquis implied in a letter, which sir Henry published, that in the measures which had led to this unfortunate issue, his own opinion had been overruled, In a pamphlet, which bears most interesting marks of modesty and candor, Sir Henry Clinton completely invalidated these charges; and evinced that the selection of Yorktown, as a place for a permanent establishment, which was the particular subject of dispute, was made in compliance with what he deemed the wishes of the Marquis. The reply of lord Cornwallis to this narrative is without asperity; and shows that several important letters of sir Henry Clinton were not received in time to be of service; and also that his measures which certainly were not the best for himself, were taken with the intention of subserving the plans which the commander in chief might adopt.
A valuable history of the revolution was written by Mr. Gordon, who during the war was a clergyman in Roxbury, near Boston. After the contest was at end he went to England, where he published his work, which, although it was unfavorably received by some, and although not recommended by any beauty of style, has the high merits of accuracy and impartiality
Annals of the events of the war are contained in the valuable work of Dr. Holmes, and also in the second volume of the Collections of the Historical Society. But the only histories which have been produced in America, which are of much importance, are those of Ramsay and Marshall. Dr. Ramsay, during the whole war, was in some public station, either in the army as a surgeon, the legislature of South Carolina, or the Congress of the United States, and thus had excellent means of information. His history of the revolution in South Carolina is valuable, not as a narrative of military trans
actions, but as containing interesting and important facts, which are evidence of the sufferings of the Americans of the army from want of provisions and want of pay—and of the people from the weakness of their own government, which could not protect them, and from the cruelty of the British, who were most oppressive where they had most power. The public papers connected with his volumes add much to the value of the work. His general history of the revolution is well known, and has such peculiar merits as entitle it to the attention of those who wish to be well informed on the subject of which it treats.
It is a great praise of the Life of Washington to say, that it is worthy of Judge Marshall. It has done honor to our country abroad. Still however it is not difficult to point out some defects in it. His work is styled biographical, but is in fact historical; and the author, by assuming for it only the former modest character, which does not in fact belong to it, appears to have been less careful to perfect it in the latter. In the three volumes which contain the history of the war, we have an interesting and accurate detail of its events. We have a record of all those transactions, which at the time were obvious to the knowledge of all; and the correspondence of general Washington, which is given with much prodigality, affords information upon some of the more secret parts of our history. But we presume most of his readers have lamented its barrenness in the congressional history of the times, and regretted that we know so little of our legislative revolutionary heroes, and of the transactions of the cabi. net. The work of Judge Marshall is also defective as a history of the United States, in the information it contains as to the system of government among the colonies under which the first hostilities took place, and by which their independence was declared; as to the nature of the confederation, which succeeded it; and as to the transactions with foreign powers.
We have as yet therefore no proper history of our revolution, still less of the United States ; perhaps one is not yet to be expected. It may be that we are yet too near the scenes we wish depicted ; that the distance is not yet such as is best for a philosophic view. We must perhaps wait until those who then lived shall be no more, and until the partialities, irritations and party feelings of those days shall have entirely subsided; and then characters may be estimated fairly, and events portrayed without prejudice. We may then hope to see the causes of those great events which have taken place in our country more fully unfolded, and those uses made of facts for whịch alone they are worthy of being recorded. In the mean time, we should endeavour to preserve and increase the records of the transactions of these periods; and should value each new fact relating to them, not only because it may add 'to our own amusement or knowledge, but from a regard to its future usefulness. There are probably many now living, whose number is rapidly diminishing, and whose memories are the only repositories of curious and important circumstances, relative to the political or military history of our revolu. tion; and it is desirable to give perpetuity to this knowledge.
It was therefore with great pleasure that we received the work of general Lee. We knew that he had served in the war with much reputation; and by one who had been so actively engaged, we expected not only to be made better acquainted with facts already related in other books, but also to be furnished with such new information as a judicious eye. witness would obtain. The campaigns in the southern states, in which he principally served, and of which his work is a histo, ry, were as important as any other parts of the war, and in general far more interesting. The battles were numerous ; the achievements of the partizan officers often highly brilliant ; and the constant activity of the armies for long periods produced abundance of incident. It is true that the forces em.
ployed on either side were never numerous; but whether the contending armies consist of a thousand or of a hundred thousand men, all the talents of the commanders may be developed; as great courage may be displayed by the soldiers; and the consequences of events may be equally important to the hostile nations. The operations of war being spread over a vast continent by the plan that was adopted, it was by skirmishes that the fate of America was to be decided.* And the transactions in the southern states certainly had great influence upon the event of the war. It was here that our enemy exerted himself as against our weakest part; here he obtained his greatest successes, and here as elsewhere, he was at last completely foiled. To this day we can perceive in those states the remains of that bitterness toward Great Britain, which was produced during the war by their sufferings; which were the greater, as they were much distracted by internal divisions, and as the power of the enemy was often evinced by cruelty and tyranny. Judge Marshall gives the following character of the war in the south. 4 The sufferings occasioned by this ardent struggle for the southern states were not confined to the armies. The inhabitants of the country felt all the miseries which are inflicted by war in its most savage form. Being almost equally divided between the two contending parties, reciprocal injuries had gradually sharpened their resentments against each other, and had armed neighbour against neighbour, till it had become a war of extermination. As the parties alternately triumphed, opportunities were alternately given for the exercise of their vindictive passions. They derived additional virulence from the examples occasionally afforded by the commanders of the British forces." The disposition to retaliate, to the full ex. tent of their power, if not to commit original injury, was equally strong in the opposite party.”+ General Lee gives many
Annual Register, 1781. p. 83. + Vol. iv. pp. 537, 538
facts confirming these remarks; and in speaking of the conduct of the Georgian militia on a particular occasion, he says, that they were so exasperated by the cruelties mutually inflicted in the course of the war in this state, that they were disposed to have sacrificed every man taken; and with great difficulty was this disposition now suppressed."* In other parts of our country the miseries of war were severely felt; but here the people were treated not only as enemies, but as rebels.
But notwithstanding our prepossessions, we confess that we were disappointed upon reading the first hundred and fif. ty pages of general Lee's history, In these pages are con tained a short recapitulation of the events of the war previous to the invasion of the south, and the narrative of events in that department during the command of generals Howe and Lincoln; but there is little that is new, and less minuteness throughout than is to be found in Marshall. We began to wish that general Lee had not commenced his history until that period when he himself became an eye-witness; or that he had adhered to his original plan, and written the life of general Greene. Even now, after he has redeemed our good opinion, and inclined us in every thing to think favorably of him, we wish that this part of his work were different from what it is. It is not however without any merit. There are some new particulars relative to an attack on the fort at Red Bank, on the Delaware river, by colonel Donnop, at the time the British were endeavouring to open the water communication between their army in Philadelphia and their navy.t There are also some ingenious remarks upon the character of sir William Howe;t and an animated description of the battle at Breed's hill; to his repulse at which, general
• Vol. ii. p. 94.
† Vol.i. p. 31.
* Vol. i. p. 49.