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tile moment when they were most necessary. Lord Raw- '784i don concluding that gen. Greene was not prepared for an \ action, and that a favorable moment offered, marched out to attack hirru The Americans were cooking their victuals, and Greene was at breakfast; about ten o'clock, when some of his advanced sentinels; half a mile in front of the camp, fired upon the Van of the British. The American troops were soon formed, and waited with cheerful countenances the approach of the enemy: col. (X Williams then rode to head quarters, i or 30a yards in the rear of the line, and returned before they engaged. All the baggage, as is fcustbmary in general actions, was ordered off. The cavalry (which was urt-' saddled and feeding, on the first alarm) was now ready• j and so certain was Greene of success, that without the least hesitation, he ordered lieut. col. Washington to turn the right flank of the British; and to charge in their rear; By this time the fire between the British van, and the American light infantry picquets beeame" Very lively; and the Maryland troops (who had been ordered to sit down) stood up and made ready. The second regiment, being on the left of the line, was ordered to advance and attack the British on their right flank; which was done by lieut. Col. Ford, who received a mortal wound in the action: the first regiment, commanded by cOl. Gunby, was ordered to charge the enemy in front. The two Virginia regiments were ordered to act in a similar manner upon the left of the British, and Were led en by Greene in person, aided by gen. Huger; heut.' cols. Campbell and Hawes. The artillery was well posted and doing great execution, and a small body Of militia was coming into action,, when suddenly a
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1781. number of the Americans began to retire, though the danger was not apparently great, and every body seemed ignorant of the cause. Col. Williams was at this instant near the centre of the Maryland brigade, and with • the assistance of col. Gunby and other officers, endeavoured to rally the men. They halted and gave a few fires; but could not be brought again to charge. A general retreat took place. Washington, in the execution of the order given him, had at one time possessed himself of near 200 prisoners: but he relinquished the greatest part on seeing the army retire. The officers he paroled on the field of battle; and then collecting his men, wheeled round, made his own retreat good with the loss of three men, and carried off with him fifty prisoners. The fortune of the day was irretrievable: but Greene, with his usual firmness, instantly took measures to prevent Rawdon's improving the success he had obtained. The retreat was conducted with such order and deliberation, that most of the American wounded, all their artillery and all their baggage, were safely carried off, together with six royal commissioned officers, beside Washington's prisoners. The action was continued with intervals, till about four in the afternoon, and till the Americans had retreated about four miles; when a detachment of the infantry and cavalry, under Washington, were ordered to advance and annoy the British. The York volunteers, a handsome corps of horse, being a little advanced of the British infantry, Washington* with great intrepidity, instantly charged them, killed a number and dispersed the rest. The British army, without attempting any thing further, retired to Camden, and Greene encamped the Americans about five miles
from their former position. The field of battle was occupied only by the dead. The loss of the Americans in killed, wounded and miffing, was 264 *. Among the first was capt. Beatty of the Maryland line, one of the best of officers, and an orna;.ient to his profession. Many of the miffing returned.
The next day Greene in general orders commended the exertions of several corps; but implicidy and by silence censured the infantry of the battalions j which would not have been done had he known the real cause of their apparent misconduct. The virtual censure was severely felt, and the dissatisfaction of the troops upon the occasion, who said they were ordered to retire, and the complaints of many of the officers who acknowledged they had communicated such orders, at length produced, at the instance of col. Gunby, a court of inquiry. It then appeared that Gunby received orders to advance and charge bayonets without firing: this order was instandy communicated to the regiment which advanced cheerfully for some distance, when a firing began on the right, and in a short time became general through the whole regiment. Soon after, two of the right hand companies gave way, when Gunby ordered the other four to be brought off. This was done, and they joined Gunby at the foot of the hill, where he was exerting himself in rallying the other two companies, and at length effected it. The regiment was again formed, and gave a fire or two as above related. Greene in general orders pronounced Gunby's spirit and activity unexceptionable; but his order for the regiment to retire extremely improper and unmilitary •, and declared that * The return to the Board of War,
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l78lito be the only probable cause why they did not obtain: a complete victory.
.April Qn the 28th gen. Greene thus expressed himself in a/ letter to the chevalier de la Luzerne—" This distressed country I am sure cannot struggle much longer, without more effectual support. They may struggle a little while longer, but they must fall and I fear their fall will lay a train to sap the independence of the rest of America.—I have, agreeable to your excellency's advice, impressed the states all in my power with a fense of their danger; but they have not the means to make the necessary exertions.—We fight, get beaten, rife and fight again. The whole country is one continued scene of blood and slaughter." On the 1st of May he wrote to, the marquis de la Fayette—" You may depend upon it, that nothing can equal the sufferings of our little army, but their merit. Let not the love of fame get the better of your prudence; and plunge you intp a misfortune in too eager a pursuit after glory. This is the voice of a friend, and not the caution of a general." Capt, Smith of the Americans was deprived of the common indulgence allowed to prisoners, on a charge brought against him by deserters from Greene's army, of murdering an officer and three privates belonging to the guards after the action of Guildford. Greene complained of it to lord Rawdon in a letter of May the 3d, and said—" Nothing can be more foreign to the truth than the charge. I have only to observe upon it, that had such a charge been made against any of your officers, whom the fortune of war had thrown into our hands* before I should have treated them with any peculiar marks of indignity, I should first have made the inquiry, and > . ,' 6 had
had the fact better established.—It is my wish that the ,78l# - war should be conducted upon the most liberal, national and generous principles; but I will never suffer an indignity or injury to be offered to our officers without retaliation."
Soon after the action with his lordship, Greene knowing that the British garrison in Camden could not subsist long without fresh supplies from Charlestown Or the country, detached a reinforcement to Marion on the road to Nelson's ferry; and on the 3d of May crossed the May Wateree, and took occasionally such positions as would 3. most effectually prevent succours from going into the town from that quarter. On the 4th he wrote to governor Reed of Pennsylvania—" Those whose true interest it was to have informed congress and the people to the northward with the real state of things, have joined in the deception, and magnified the strength and resources of this country infinitely above their ability. Many of those who adhere to our party, are so fond of pleasure, that they cannot think of making the necessary sacrifices to support the revolution. There are many good and virtuous people to the southward; but they cannot animate the inhabitants in general, as you can to the north.ward.—When ruin appears to approach any state, they are alarmed and begin to think of exerting themselves; but its approach no sooner receives a check, than they sink back into a careless inattention.—Virginia has exerted herself in giving a temporary support to the army; but her pleasure and her policy prevent her giving us such permanent aid, as her strength and resources are capable of affording.—Maryland has done nothing, riofr'" pan I hear of any exertions there equal to the emergency
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