« ZurückWeiter »
haps even from the natural operation of a system, which was once thought to promise the perpetual enjoyment of every public blessing. What is the fate that now awaits our country cannot yet be determined. It is possible that the people may grow wiser by their sufferings that peace may be re. stored to us ; and that a measure of our former happiness may be again enjoyed. But the present state of our affairs may lead, and appears to be tending, to consequences of a very different nature. The spirit of our countrymen may be subdu. ed; the imbecility of our government may increase ; our national independence may be virtually lost; and we may become still more degraded as a nation, than our late policy, and those late events which every man who loves his native land has regarded with shame and humiliation, have yet been able to render us. Or it may be, that when the spirit of corrupt am. bition, and of unprincipled faction, have gained more ascendency, and are more bitterly felt, the virtuous and patriotic may release themselves from the connexion with a government, which impoverishes, and degrades, and demoralizes its subjects, and cause the bonds which unite our country to be broken. Our fate, it is probable, will be soon determined. A few years may give birth to events as momentous as those which marked the commencement of our national existence ; but the struggles of the dismemberment of a nation, or its gradu. al decay and ruin, will make a less uncommon picture in history, than the wisdom and virtue which formed our government, or the happiness which followed its just administration,
Note, referred to page 70, Containing an abstract of general Lincoln's letter to gene
ral Washington, respecting the defence of Charleston
GENERAL LINCOLN supposes several questions to be ask. ed relative to Charleston ; and we will endeavour to give a view of the answers to them, as stated in this letter.
1.6 Why was the defence of Charleston undertaken ?”' To this question it is answered-because it was the apparent wish of congress. When this city was threatened in 17769 they recommended a vigorous defence of it. When it was again in danger in 1779, they sent an engineer to fortify it, and subsequently sent three frigates to defend the harbour. Moreover if the city had been left, the ships of war, and the stores there collected, must have been relinquished ; and the enemy could not have been opposed, with such inferior numbers as the Americans possessed, in the open field. By defending it, the enemy was for a time checked, which was a certain adyantage ; and there was sufficient reason to believe, that if the expected succours had arrived, an evacuation of the city would have always been practicable, without any other losses than would be necessary from relinquishing it without defence.
2. “ Why the army, stores ; &c. were not brought off when it appeared that the post could no longer be defended ?” It appears that the communication between the city and the country was kept open, and therefore, that a retreat was in the power of the Americans, until after the cavalry were surprised and dispersed on the sixteenth of April ; and that after this, as a council of the officers in Charleston declared, “a retreat would be attended with many distressing inconveniences, if not rendered altogether impracticable," because the civil authority was averse to it; it must be performed in the face the enemy, in vessels unfit for the purpose, over a river three miles wide ; a passage was then to be forced through
considerable bodies of the enemy to the Santee river; the passage of this river would be very difficult from want of boats; and after having effected it, there would be no security from the pursuit of the British light troops. On the nineteenth of April, such reinforcements were received, and such positions taken by the enemy, as in the opinion of the officers in Charleston, rendered a retreat impracticable. But general Lee considers general Lincoln to have committed an error, in not evacuating the city immediately after the harbour was lost, which was on the ninth of April. The answer to this, as given in the letter of general Lincoln, is, that there had been such repeated assurances of abundant reinforcements, from sources most to be depended upon, as would have made it unjustifiable to doubt that he should receive sufficient to preserve the means of retreat. The whole of the succours orders ed were nine thousand and nine hundred men ; but of this number only one thousand nine hundred and fifty were received. General Lincoln was thus disappointed in his reliance on those whom he had no right to distrust. Previous to the sixteenth of April, there was no intimation that he would not receive sufficient reinforcements ; if he had received them, retreat would have been unnecessary; after that period it was not in his power. These facts we concieve fully sufficient to justify the conduct of general Lincoln, in not leaving the city upon the loss of the harbour.
3. “ Whether the necessary supplies of provisions were in time ordered ; and why the defence of the town was undertaken with so small a quantity in it?" To this question it is answered that as salted provisions are not easily preseryed in the southern country, the dependence of the army was usually upon fresh provisions, which sufficiently abound, and that adequate supplies could be furnished to the city daily, so long as the communication was open; and in the expectation that it would be retained, the defence of the city was undertaken. But' moreover, five thousand barrels of pork and as many of beef, and all other supplies necessary for an army of six thousand men, had been ordered in July,
4. “ Whether the state of the department was from time to time represented to congress, and the necessary succours call, ed for?” For an answer to this question, general Lincoln refers to the numerous communications he had made to congress, representing the weakness of the American power in the southern states ; and he also quotes a long letter transmitted to congress, dated October, 1779, in which he represents the probability that the British would endeavour to make some permanent acquisitions in this quarter, and states the great evils which would follow from such an event, which he says can only be avoided by a great increase of the strength of the army, which was then two thirds less than that of the British.
5. " Whether the marine arrangement was such as best to answer the purpose intended by congress in sending the frigates to Charleston ?" It appears from the correspondence, which general Lincoln produces, between himself and commodore Whipple, that he used every means of becoming acquainted with the harbour of Charleston, and sought for all proper advice and information as to the best stations for the vessels of war. But it seems that the defence of the harbour had been undertaken without much knowledge of its character. It was believed by congress, and by the public, that ships could be so stationed as to defend the bar; and on this account he supposes congress were induced to send them. But the attempt to defend the bar was soon found impracticable, and relinquished because there was not water enough for the purpose at the proper positions; and the next position which was taken, near fort Moultrie, was also given up, in accordance with the opinions of the commodore, because the passage of the bar had been made by the British, with a force much larger than had been expected ;
so that the final mode in which the ships were disposed of, appears to have been rendered necessary by their inadequacy to successful resistance to the enemy's naval force.
6 “ Whether the necessary exertions were made to complete the works, and fortifications of the town ?" The'ample answer to this question consists of depositions of James Cannon, a gentleman who from his intimacy with general Lincoln had means of observing him, and of Archibald Gamble, who was manager of the public works at Charleston. They are complete and full testimonials of the great exer-tions, the interest, and industry of the commander, in relation to the erection of the defensive works, and are honorable, not only to his public, but his private character.
7. The last question which is answered in this letter, is $ Whether the defence of Charleston was conducted with that military spirit and determination which justice to their country and themselves demanded ?" It appears that on the thirtieth of March, the enemy sat down before the place, and on the tenth of April, having completed their first parallel, the besieged were summoned to surrender. The demand was refused with promptitude and spirit. On the twentieth, when the second parallel was finished, proposals for surrender from the British were again rejected. On the eighth of May, when the third parallel was completed, a summons was again sent to general Lincoln, upon which he proposed terms of surrender, which not being admitted, hostilities were renewed, and continued until the eleventh, at which time, says general Lincoln The militia of the town having thrown down their arms our provisions, saving a little rice, being exhausted the troops on the line being worn down with fatigue, having for a number of days been obliged to lay upon the banquette our harbour closely blocked up-completely invested by land by nine thousand men at least, the flower of the British army in Army, besides the large force they could at all times