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it to adm. Graves. Graves however sailed on a cruise '78** before Boston. When he returned on the 16th of August, the proposal was renewed: but it was now become necessary to refit one of his ships, and to repair others, so that his fleet could not be ready in season. Mr. de
Barras sailed with the train and stores from Rhode Island .
on the 25th; concluding from de Grassc's own dispatches, 25. that he must be then at the Chesapeak. De Barras was at liberty to have undertaken any other service: but though he was an older officer than de Grasse, he voluntarily chose to put himself under his command, to en- 1 sure an object, the attainment of which was of such immense consequence to the allied arms of France and America. On the day of his sailing, Sir Samuel Hood arrived off the Chesapeak, where he expected to have met Graves with the squadron from New York; but being disappointed, he sent a frigate to that commander with the news of his arrival. Had they formed a junction at- this period and place, they might have secured the Chesapeak, and have prevented de Grasse's entering it a few days after. Sir Samuel having examined the bay, proceeded to the capes of Delaware, and not seeing or hearing any thing of da Grasse, made the best of his way to Sandy Hook, where he arrived on the 2Sth. 28. On that day, the commanders at New York received intelligence, that Barras had sailed three days before to the southward. Notwithstanding the hope of intercepting his squadron before it could join de Grasse, must , have been a new incentive for exertions; it was three ., days before Graves could be in readiness to proceed from New York with five ihips of the line and a fifty mill to the Hook, and from thence with the whole fleet
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1.781. under his command to the southward. The day before he sailed, de Grasse arrived in the Chesapeak. On his passage the count fell in with and took a packet from Charlestown, having on board lord Rawdon, who was on his return to Great Britain.
The French admiral after blocking up York river, took possession of James's, in order to cover the boats of the fleet, which were to convoy the marquis de St. Simon, with 3300 land forces from the West Indies, eighteen leagues up the river, to form a junction with Fayette. Graves received no intelligence of the French fleet (nor they of his approach) till they were discovered
^P*' early in the morning of September the 5th, lying at anchor, to the number of 24 sail of the line, just within Cape Henry, and consequently the mouth of the Chesapeak. The French immediately slipped their cables, and turning out from the anchorage ground, Grasse threw out a signal for the ships severally to form the line as they could come up, without regarding particular stations. The British fleet amounted to nineteen ships of the line, and one or more of 50 guns. Through various delays the action did not commence till four o'clock, and then was partial, only the van and a part of the British centre being able to come near enough to engage with effect. De Grasse did not aim so much at a close engagement, as at keeping possession of the Chesapeak, and saving his ships for that and all its correspondent purposes. The absence of 1800 of his seamen, and 90 officers, employed in conveying Simons's troops up James river, confirmed him in his avoidance of a hazardous action. Drake with the rear division, in consequence of the last tack, becoming the van of the British fleet, treated the French van so roughly, that ll%** they bore away, while de Grasse with the centre edged up in order to cover their retreat. The weight of the action fell principally upon the British van, the centre coming in for a more moderate share, and seven sail never being able to get within a proper gun-shot distance of the French: from these circumstances Drake's division suffered severely. The engagement ended about sun-set. The slain on board the British amounted to 90, and the wounded to 230. The Shrewsbury and Intrepid bore more than a proportionable share of this loss. Capt. Robinson of the former lost a leg, and capt. Molloy of the latter gained great honor, by the gallantry with which he succoured and covered the Shrewsbury, when overborne and surrounded by the French. According to the French accounts, no more than 15 ships on each side were engaged. Admiral Graves used all measures to keep up the line during the night, with the design of renewing the action in the morning. But he discovered that several ships of the van, and the Montague of the centre, had suffered so much in their masts^ that they were in no condition for renewing the action, till the fame were secured. The Terrible was so leaky as to keep all her pumps going, and the Ajax was in little better condition. The hostile fleets continued for five successive days, partly repairing their damages, and partly manœuvring in fight of each other; and at times were very near. The British were so mutilated, that they had not speed enough to attack the French; and these showed no inclination to renew the action, though they had it often in their power, as they generally maintained the wind of Graves. De Grasse searing lest by
'781-some favorable change of it, the British should get beI0," fore him to the Chesapeak, returned thither. on the 10th. The Richmond and Iris, of 32 guns each, which had been sent to cut away the buoys of the French anchors, fell into his hands. His putting to sea, and continuing there after fighting the British, was probably the saving of de Barras; for during de Grafle's absence *, the other arrived in the bay with eight French line of battle ships, beside frigates, transports and victuallers, bringing with him the artillery and stores indispensably necessary for the siege of York Town. The American officers were in great pain about him, when they heard of Graves's having put to sea, lest he should fall in with the latter, be over-powered, and thereby all their hopes of capturing lord Cornwallis be disappointed. De Barras had taken a wide circuitous course to avoid being intercepted; but that very precaution might have proved his ruin, had not de Grasse left the Chesapeak on the 5th, and engaged and manœuvred with Graves. In the mean time, a fresh gale and a head sea so increased the damage and danger of the Terrible, that it was found necessary to evacuate and then burn her. This was done on the nth, and about nine at night, Graves bore up for the Chesapeak; but upon information's being brought him, that the French fleet were all anchored within the Cape, so as to block the passage, it was . determined by a council of war, to return to New York, where the fleet arrived the 20th of September.
* Seerount deGrasse's letter to the chevalier de Luzernc, Sept. 13, and the Baltimore News-paper of Sept. 18, 1781.
One great object of the British force in Virginia was 1781. the establishment of a strong post and place of arms,' which by embracing some good harbour, or commanding one of the great navigable rivers, should equally facilitate future hostile operations whether by sea or land; and which, beside giving an opportunity for distressing the country, if the reduction of it could not be effected, should afford such a station for the British fleets and cruisers, as would render them entirely masters of Chesapeak bay. But the utility of such a post was necessarily founded on the confidence of a constant naval superiority, as well as of its being defensible by a moderate force on the land side. Upon a personal examination of Portsmouth, lord Cornwallis discovered it to be totally incompetent to the purpose of the intended post. Point Comfort was thought to be no less' defective. York Town lying on the river of that name, and on the narrowest part of the peninsula between York and James rivers, where it is about five miles over; and Gloucester Point on the north and opposite side, and projecting so far into the river, that the distance between both is not much above a mile, afforded the only remaining choice. They entirely commanded the navigation of the river, which is so deep at this place, as to admit of ships of great size and burden: but then they required the whole force that Cornwallis possessed to render them effective. His lordship gave the preference to them; and repaired with his army in August to the peninsula. He applied himself with the utmost diligence to fortify these posts, and to render them equally respectable by land and water. His whole force amounted to about 7000 excellent troops. Before his lordship had fixed himself and