« ZurückWeiter »
called out the militia of the State, and it was supposed they would duly obey the call. Large reinforcements of troops also were expected from the North. Under all these circumstances, General Lincoln yielded to the entreaties of the inhabitants, and, instead of remaining with his army in the open country, as he had intended, shut himself up with them in the place for its defence, leaving merely his cavalry and two hundred light troops outside, who were to hover about the enemy and prevent small parties from marauding. It was not until the 12th of March that Sir Henry Clinton effected his tardy approach, and took up a position on Charleston Neck, a few miles above the town. Admiral Arbuthnot soon showed an intention of introducing his ships into the harbor, barricading their waists, anchoring them in a situation where they might take advantage of the first favorable spring-tide, and fixing buoys on the bar for their guidance. Commodore Whipple had by this time ascertained by sounding, that a wrong idea had prevailed of the depth of water in the harbor and that his ships could not anchor nearer than within three miles of the bar, so that it would be impossible for him to defend the passage of it. He quitted his station within it, therefore, after having destroyed a part of the enemy's buoys, and took a position where his ships might be abreast, and form a cross-fire with the batteries of Fort Moultrie, where Colonel Pinckney commanded. Washington was informed of these facts, by letters from his former aide-de-camp, Colonel Laurens, who was in Charleston at the time. The information caused anxious forebodings. “The impracticability of defend1780.] TRoops EMBARKED AT NEW YORK. 31
ing the bar, I fear, amounts to the loss of the town and garrison,” writes he in reply. “It really appears to me, that the propriety of attempting to defend the town, depended on the probability of defending the bar, and that when this ceased, the attempt ought to have been relinquished.” The same opinion was expressed by him in a letter to Baron Steuben, “but at this distance,” adds he considerately, “we can form a very imperfect judgment of its propriety or necessity. I have the greatest reliance in General Lincoln's prudence, but I cannot forbear dreading the event.” His solicitude for the safety of the South was increased, by hearing of the embarkation at New York of two thousand five hundred British and Hessian troops, under Lord Rawdon, reinforcements for Sir Henry Clinton. It seemed evident the enemy intended to push their operations with vigor at the South ; perhaps, to make it the principal theatre of the war. “We are now beginning,” said Washington, “to experience the fatal consequences of the policy which delayed calling upon the States for their quotas of men in time to arrange and prepare them for the duties of the field. What to do for the Southern States, without involving consequences equally alarming in this quarter, I know not.” Gladly would he have hastened to the South in person, but at this moment his utmost vigilance was required to keep watch upon New York and maintain the security of the Hudson, the vital part of the confederacy. The weak state of the American means of warfare in both quarters, presented a choice of diffi
culties. The South needed support. Could the North give it without exposing itself to ruin, since the enemy, by means of their ships, could suddenly unite their forces, and fall upon any point that they might consider weak P. Such were the perplexities to which he was continually subjected, in having, with scanty means, to provide for the security of a vast extent of country, and with land forces merely, to contend with an amphibious enemy.
“Congress will better conceive in how delicate a situation we stand,” writes he, “when I inform them, that the whole operating force present on this and the other side of the North River, amounts only to ten thousand four hundred rank and file, of which about two thousand eight hundred will have completed their term of service by the last of May; while the enemy's regular force at New York and its dependencies, must amount, upon a moderate calculation, to about eleven thousand rank and file. Our situation is more critical from the impossibility of concentrating our force, as well as for the want of the means of taking the field, as on account of the early period of the season.””
Looking, however, as usual, to the good of the whole Union, he determined to leave something at hazard in the Middle States, where the country was intermally so strong, and yield further succor to the Southern States, which had not equal military advantages. With the consent of Congress, therefore, he put the Maryland line under marching orders, together with the Delaware regiment, which acted with it, and the first regiment of artillery.
* Letter to the President, April 2d.
1780.] STEADFASTNESS OF MIND. 33
The Baron de Kalb, now at the head of the Maryland division, was instructed to conduct this detachment with all haste to the aid of General Lincoln. He might not arrive in time to prevent the fall of Charleston, but he might assist to arrest the progress of the enemy and save the Carolinas.
Washington had been put upon his guard of late against intrigues, forming by members of the old Conway cabal, who intended to take advantage of every military disaster to destroy confidence in him. His steady mind, however, was not to be shaken by suspiclon. “Against intrigues of this kind incident to every man of a public station,” said he, “his best support will be a faithful discharge of his duty, and he must rely on the justice of his country for the event.”
His feelings at the present Juncture are admirably expressed in a letter to the Baron de Steuben. “The prospect, my dear Baron, is gloomy, and the storm threatens, but I hope we shall extricate ourselves, and bring every thing to a prosperous issue. I have been So inured to difficulties in the course of this contest, that I have learned to look upon them with more tranquillity than formerly. Those which now present themselves, no doubt require vigorous exertions to overcome them, and I am far from despairing of doing it.””
* Washington's Writings, vii. 10.
EVILS OF THE CONTINENTAL CURRENOY-MILITARY REFORMS PROPOSED BY WASHINGTON.—OONGRESS JEALOUS OF MILITARY POWER—-COMMITTEE OF THIREE SENT TO CONFER WITH WASHINGTON.—LOSSES BY DEPRECIATION OF THE OURRENOY TO BE MADE GOOD TO THE TROOPS —ARRIVAL OF LAFAYETTE–SOHEME FOR A COMBINED ATTACK UPON NEW YORK–ARNOLD HAS DEBTS AND DIFFICULTIES-HIS PROPOSALS TO THE FRENCH MINISTER—ANXIOUS TO RETURN TO THE ARMYMUTINY OF THE CONNECTIOUT TROOPS–WASHINGTON WIRITES TO REED FOR AID FROM PENNSYLVANIA—GOOD EFFECTS OF HIS LETTER,
WE have cited the depreciation of the currency as a main cause of the difficulties and distresses of the army. The troops were paid in paper money at its nominal value. A memorial of the officers of the Jersey line to the legislature of their State, represented the depreciation to be so great, that four months' pay of a private soldier would not procure for his family a single bushel of wheat; the pay of a colonel would not purchase oats for his horse, and a common laborer or express rider could earn four times the pay in paper of an American officer. Congress, too, in its exigencies, being destitute of the power of levying taxes, which vested in the State governments, devolved upon those governments, in