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of Charleston, Sir Henry Clinton and Lord Cornwallis sailed, on the 26th of December, with several thousand men, in transports, convoyed by five ships of the line, and a number of frigates. Knyphausen was left in command at New York.
SIEGE AND FALL OF CHARLESTON-TARLETON'S BUTCHERY.
T is now necessary to glance very briefly at the campaign in the South,
which, as Washington had no personal part in it, is only of collateral significance. Lincoln was in command at Charleston, when General Clinton arrived at Tybee bay, on the Savannah, in the latter part of January. On the 11th of February, the greater part of the British army landed at a point thirty miles below Charleston, leaving the fleet to make a circuit by sea and appear before the city, while the army marched by land. The enemy advanced slowly, fortifying many points as he went, and taking the further precaution to direct the forwarding of reinforcements from Savannah and New York. Charleston, standing upon an isthmus between the Ashley and Cooper rivers, was weakly garrisoned, but Lincoln took every means to strengthen its defences. He connected the two rivers, above the city, by a canal; beyond this he placed two rows of abatis and a picketed ditch, and, between the canal and the main works, threw up redoubts, so placed as to flank an approaching enemy. The Governor at Charleston gave orders for the mustering of the militia, and a small squadron of armed vessels was in the harbor, to co-operate with Forts Moultrie and Johnston, for its defence. On the 12th of March Clinton arrived, and posted his army upon Charleston neck, a few miles from the town. This condition of affairs being communicated to Washington, he ordered the troops of Maryland and Delaware, with a regiment of artillery, to reinforce Lincoln.
The next point in the British plan was to bring the vessels of the facet into the harbor, and thus be in a position to rake the batteries of the town. The defence of Charleston really depended upon the prevention of this movement, and the existence of a difficult bar at the entrance of the harbor made it a very hazardous one, in the face of opposition. The American commodore, Whipple, finding, by soundings, that he could not anchor within three miles of the bar, gave up the idea of defending it, and
retired to a position in line with the forts. Admiral Arbuthnot effected the passage on the 20th of March, having removed his guns to lighten the vessels, and lay within the bar, engaged in replacing his artillery. Then was the time when Charleston should have been evacuated, for its defence was hopeless, but a letter from the commander in chief, intimating the desirability of abandoning the town in such an event, had been detained, and came too late to influence Lincoln, who prepared for defence, and the American vessels-of-war were sunk in line across the Cooper river.
The British were reinforced from Savannah, before the arrival of the anxiously expected Northern troops. On the oth of April, Clinton completed his first parallel, within eight hundred yards of the American lines, and, on the same day, Arbuthnot sailed past Fort Moultrie, with little loss, and anchored inside, out of range of the guns of either fort. Lincoln was then summoned to surrender, but returned a firm refusal. About the same time General Woodford, with seven hundred Virginia troops, passed into the city, from the north, by the only remaining way.
On the 14th, Clinton detached Tarleton and Lieutenant-colonel Webster to surprise the American cavalry, which served to keep open communication with the city. The party met with a signal success, killing or capturing one hundred of the Americans, dispersing the remainder on foot, and capturing four hundred horses. This completed the investment, and placed retreat out of the question, yet Lincoln persisted in maintaining the lines, and the British seemed content to proceed by approaches. Thus the siege wore on, Lincoln having no substantial reason for hope, but determined not to surrender so long as he might obtain delay. The garrison was much fatigued, and many had been killed; supplies were not abundant; the guns were many of them dismounted, and when, on May 7th, the British gained possession of Mount Pleasant, and compelled the surrender of Fort Moultrie, it seemed that resistance had ceased to be wise. By May 12th, the third parallel was completed, within twenty yards of the American works. These were three miles in extent, and to man them Lincoln had but about one thousand troops, many of which were militia. On the 12th, the citizens of Charleston presented a petition, urging Lincoln to surrender, and terms of capitulation being proposed on the same day, he accepted them.
The town and all stores passed into the hands of the enemy. The garrison, and such citizens as had assisted in the defence, became prisoners of war; the militia was paroled. The garrison was required to march out and lay down their arms, before the fort, but no humiliation was attached to the surrender. The British lost, during the siege, seventy-six men killed, and one hundred and seventy-six wounded; the casualties of the Americans were not far from the same number. The fall of Charleston was a great advantage to the British, as it was a most serious loss to the Americans. The city was the principal mart of the South, and its fate seemed likely to
be decisive of that of all the country about. With Savannah already conquered and Georgia secured, Charleston added to these, and the service of a moderate army employed in encouraging loyalists and intimidating whigs, Clinton was confident of reducing to submission, the South, from Virginia to the Gulf, and, beyond mere submission, he had hopes of so arousing the loyalty of the tories, as to derive positive support and assistance from that quarter.
Immediately after the surrender Clinton formed another plan. Colonel Buford, having set out, with three hundred and eighty Virginia troops and two field-pieces, for the relief of Charleston, and finding himself too late to be of service, had begun a retreat to North Carolina. On the way he was joined by a remnant of Colonel Washington's cavalry, which had escaped the surprisal by Tarleton. Clinton dispatched a detachment under Cornwallis to pursue and capture this little force. Buford had a considerable advantage in the start, and as he moved rapidly, Cornwallis advanced Colonel Tarleton in pursuit, with one hundred and seventy dragoons and one hundred mounted infantry. It required more than a night and a day of forced march, during which many horses perished and the men suffered exceedingly with the heat, for Tarleton to come within twenty miles of Buford's party. With the intention of delaying the march of the retreating Americans, he then sent forward a messenger bearing the following letter:
"Sir:-Resistance being vain, to prevent the effusion of blood, I make offers which can never be repeated. You are now almost encompassed by a corps of seven hundred light troops on horseback; half of that number are infantry, with cannons. Earl Cornwallis is likewise within reach, with nine British regiments. I warn you of the temerity of further inimical proceedings." The letter closed with an offer to Buford, of the same terms which had been given at Charleston. That officer read the letter, kept the messenger in conversation for some time, without a halt, then returned the following answer:
“SIR :- I reject your proposals, and shall defend myself to the last extremity.
I have the honor, &c." In the meantime Tarleton had continued to press forward, and came up with Buford's rear at about 3 o'clock in the afternoon. The Americans had not looked for so early an arrival of the enemy, and were in a measure surprised. Buford made an effort to draw his men off at the right of the road and form them, while his advance hurried on with the baggage. He was, however, but ill prepared for the impetuous charge of Tarleton's cavalry, and most of his men, after firing one hasty and ineffective volley, threw down their arms and called for quarter. To what degree this prayer was granted, may be judged by the fact that one hundred and thirty were killed on the spot, one hundred and fifty so mangled and maimed that they were left on the field by the victors, and only about fifty, nearly all wounded,
were made prisoners. The advanced guard of about one hundred infantry escaped, as did Colonel Buford, with a few of the horses. The affair was nothing but a wanton and indiscriminate butchery. Tarleton explained it by saying that, he having been unhorsed at the first fire, his men thought him killed, and were so exasperated that they had finished their work before he could remount. Cornwallis approved of the affair, and recommended Tarleton for promotion, but the world has always, and justly, held him to have been a murderer. The facts that Buford's field-pieces were not discharged, and that Tarleton's loss was but five men killed, and fifteen wounded, seems to more than justify this view of the case.
Immediately upon receiving news of the fall of Charleston and the capture of Lincoln, Washington had desired to place the command of the South in the hands of General Greene, an officer in whose discretion and bravery he had the most implicit confidence. Congress, however, interfered and, as usual, made a faux pas, appointing Gates to the duty. Gates was without command and accepted the service very eagerly, though Lee gave him a prophetic warning to beware that his northern laurels did not change to southern willows. At the time of his appointment to the command, the troops of Maryland and Delaware, under the veteran De Kalb, were still in North Carolina, the difficulty of subsisting the army and uncertainty as to orders, having made their march a slow one. The remaining force in the Southern colonies was mostly included in a body of North Carolina militia, under General Caswell, and a body of about eight hundred brave South Carolina volunteers who had chosen their friend and neighbor Colonel Thomas Sumter, to command them.
Gates reached De Kalb's camp on the 25th of July and took command of the little army. He at once made a serious mistake, by ordering an advance, on the 27th, upon roads which the heat and lack of subsistence had prevented either De Kalb or Cornwallis from attempting until after the harvest had been gathered and cooler weather came.
His men suffered everything from hunger, thirst, and heat. He effected a junction with Caswell and on the 13th of August, took possession of Rugely's Mills, without opposition from Lord Rawdon, who commanded during Cornwallis' absence at Charleston. Rawdon withdrew to Camden. On the day of his arrival at Clermont, Gates was reinforced by seven hundred Virginia militia, under Brigadier-general Stephens, who had served in the campaign of 1777–78. He also learned from Sumter that an escort of supplies for the British, at Camden, must shortly pass the Wateree, at a ferry about a mile distant from the town, which ferry was protected by a redoubt. He reinforced Sumter with one hundred regulars and gave him orders to intercept the train, at the same time determining himself to cover the enterprise by a demonstration against Camden. He estimated his force for this service at seven thousand, and, upon being informed by the assistant adjutant-general, that he had a line