Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

troops. These retreated to York Island as General WASHINGTON approached, who had moved the army to support his detachments, and to follow up any advantage they might gain. On the sixth of July, Count Rochambeau joined the American army at Dobb's ferry.

Early in August Count de Barrass, who had succeeded to the command of the French fleet at Rhode Island, informed General WASHINGTON, that the Count de Grasse was to have sailed from the West Indies the 3d of that month for the Chesapeak, with twenty-five ships of the line, and three thousand land troops.

It became necessary to determine absolutely on the plan of operation. The battalions in the army, under the immediate command of General WASHINGTON Were not full; it was known that the garrison at New-York had received a very considerable reinforcement; and the French marine officers appeared not ardent in the plan to attack the harbour of this city.

For these considerations General WASHINGTON determined to relinquish the attempt on New-York, and to march to Virginia to lay siege to the post of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown. Having resolved on this plan, he in a private manner adopted measures for its execution.

The defence of West Point and of the other posts on the Hudson was committed to General Heath, and a large portion of the troops raised in the Northern States was for this service left under his command. General WASHINGTON resolved in person to conduct the Virginia expedition. The troops under Count Rochambeau, and strong detachments from the American army, amounting to more than two thousand men, and consisting of the light infantry, Lamb's artillery and several other corps were destined for this expedition. By the 25th of August the whole body, American and French, had crossed the North river.

An intercepted letter of General WASHINGTON's, in

[ocr errors]

which he communicated, as the result of a consultation with the French commanders, the design to at tack New-York, had excited the apprehensions of the British General for the safety of that city. This apprehension was kept alive, and the real object of the Americans concealed, by preparations for an encampment in New Jersey opposite to Staten Island, by the rout of the American army, and other appearances in. dicating an intention to besiege New-York; and the troops had passed the Delaware out of reach of annoy. ance, before Sir Henry suspected their destination. General WASHINGTON pressed forward with the ut.

most expedition, and at Chester he received SEPT. 3. the important intelligence, that Count de

Grasse had arrived with his fleet in the Chesapeak, and that the Marquis St. Simon had, with a body of three thousand land forces, joined the Marquis La Fayette. Having directed the route of his army from the head of Elk, he, accompanied by Rochambeau, Chatelleux, Du Portail, and Knox, proceeded to Virginia. They reached Williamsburg the 14th of September, and immediately repaired on board the Ville de Paris, to settle with Count de Grasse the plan of operation.

The Count afterwards wrote General SEPT. 15.

WASHINGTON, that, judging his confined situation to be unfavourable for a naval engagement, he should sail to meet the English at sea or to block them up in the harbour of New-York. General WASHINGTON apprehending that the successful issue of the expedition, which he had conceived morally certain, might by this measure be defeated, sent a despatch by the Marquis La Fayette to the Count, to dissuade him from it. The Count consented to conform himself to the wishes of the American General, and remained at anchor in the bay of the Chesapeak.

The whole body of American and French troops reached Williamsburg by the 25th of September. At

this place the allied forces were joined by a detachment of the militia of Virginia, under the command of Governour Nelson. Preparations were soon made to besiege Yorktown.

The rivers, York and James, form a long and narrow peninsula, and Lord Cornwallis had chosen a position on the south side of York river as a military post, and had strongly fortified it. Opposite to Yorktown on the north shore is Gloucester Point, which projects into the river, and at this place reduces its width to one mile. This point his Lordship also pogsessed, and fortified. Between these posts the river is deep, and ships of the line may here ride in safety. The communication between Yorktown and Gloucester Point was defended by batteries on shore, and by several armed ships in the river. The body of the British army was encamped about Yorktown, within a range of redoubts and field works, erected to command the peninsula, which at this place is not more than eight miles wide, and to impede the approach of an assaulting enemy. Colonel Tarleton with six or seven hundred men defended Gloucester.

On the 28th, the main body of the allied army moved down towards Yorktown, driving before them troops of horse, and the piquets of the enemy. The columns, as they reached the ground assigned them, encamped for the night and lay upon their arms. The next day was employed in reconnoitring the enemy's position, in which service Colonel Scammel, an officer of merit, was mortally wounded, and taken prisoner. A force consisting of about two thousand French and Americans, under the command of the French General de Choise, was stationed on the north side of the river, to watch and restrain the enemy in Gloucester.

The French and Americans were employed until the 6th of October, in conveying their artillery and stores from the landing place to camp. On the night of that day, they broke ground within six hundred Vol. II.

2 *

yards of the British lines; and the first parallel was completed with little loss. On the 9th and 10th, guns were mounted on the works, and the batteries began to play, with visible effect, on the lines of the enemy. Many of their guns were soon silenced, and their works damaged. By the 11th, the enemy scarcely returned a shot. The shells and red hot balls of the besiegers reached the British shipping in the river, and set the Charon frigate of forty-four guns, and several large transports on fire, which were entirely consumed. A spirit of emulation animated the troops of both nations, and the siege was prosecuted with vigour and effect. On the night of the 11th, the second parallel was begun within three hundred yards of the British lines. The working parties were not discovered until day. light, when the trenches were in a situation to cover the men.

Three days were spent in completing the batteries of this parallel, which time the British indefatigably employed upon their lines. They opened new embrasures, and their fire was more destructive than at any previous period of the siege. Two redoubts in particular, advanced in front of the British lines, and which flanked the second parallel of the Americans, gave great annoyance; and it was deemed necessary to carry them by storm.

To prevent national jealousy, and to keep alive the spirit of emulation, the attack of one was assigned to the American troops, and that of the other to the French. The Marquis La Fayette commanded the American detachment consisting of light infantry, which was designed to act against the redoubt near the river, and the Baron de Viominel, with the grena. diers and chasseurs of his nation, was ordered to storm the redoubt nearer to the British right. Colonel Hamilton, who through this campaign commanded a battalion of light infantry, led the advanced corps of the Americans to the assault, while Colonel Laurens turned the redoubt and attacked in the rear, to pre.

men.

vent the retreat of the garrison. Without giving time for the abattis to be removed, and without firing a gun, the Americans gallantly assaulted, and instantly carried the works. Their loss was one sergeant and eight privates killed ; and six officers, and twenty-six rank and file wounded. The garrison was commanded by a Major, and consisted of about fifty men. Of these, eight privates were killed, a few individuals escaped, and the residue were made prisoners.*

The redoubt attacked by the French was garrisoned by one hundred and twenty men, it made more resistance and was overcome at the loss of near one hundred

Of the garrison eighteen were killed, and three officers and about forty privates were made prisoners.

The Commander in Chief was highly pleased with the gallantry of the attacking troops on this occasion. In general orders he congratulated the army on the success of the enterprise, and thanked the troops for their cool and intrepid conduct. « The General re. flects," conclude the orders," with the highest degree of pleasure, on the confidence which the troops of the two nations must hereafter have in each other. Assured of mutual support, he is convinced there is no danger, which they will not cheerfully encounter, no

* This event took place soon after the wanton slaughter of the men in Fort Griswold in Connecticut by the British.The irritation of this recent carnage had not so far subdued the humanity of the American character as to induce retaliation. Not a man was killed except in action. 'Incapable,' said Colonel Hamilton in his report,' of imitating examples of barbarity, and forgetting recent provocation, the soldiery spared every man that ceased to resist.' Mr. Gordon, in his

History of the American War, states, the orders given by La Fayette, with the approbation of Washington, to have directed, that every man in the redoubt, after its surrender, should be put to the sword. These sanguinary orders, so repugnant to the character of the Commander in Chief, and of La Fayette, were never given. There is no trace of them among the papers of General WASHINGTON ; and Colonel Hamilton, who iook a part in the enterprise, which assures his perfect knowledge of every material occurrence, has publickly contradicted the statement."

Judge Marshall.

« ZurückWeiter »