« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
of but three thousand and fifty-two effectives, he carelessly answered: “There are enough for our purpose." Such was the man who had sought to supplant Washington! Gates advanced in order, flanked on either side by light infantry, the Maryland division, with Virginia and North Carolina militia and artillery forming the main body and the rear.
Cornwallis had, in the meantime, learned of the presence of a considerable body of Americans, and had resumed command at Camden. On the very night when Gates moved upon Camden, he set out to attack the Americans at Clermont, and, at half past two o'clock in the morning of August 16th, the advance parties of the two armies met, to their mutual surprise. Gates was soon informed by prisoners taken in the first skirmish, that he was confronted by Cornwallis and the whole British force. He might then have retired in safety, made a junction with Sumter, chosen a more fitting time and place for engaging the enemy, and, perhaps, have been successful, but he would not adopt the Fabian policy of Washington, and remained on the ground to expose his few regulars and undisciplined militia to the veterans of Cornwallis. The result was what might have been expected. The British attacked him in the morning on equal ground. His militia for the most part broke and fled like sheep, pursued by Tarleton's dreaded cavalry. He strove in vain to check them, and sent officers who endeavored with no better success to overtake and form them to cover a retreat. Gates thought that his whole army had fled, and retired with those about him to Charlotte. De Kalb's regulars had, however, stood their ground, after the whole center and left had deserted them. In this position, outnumbered and outflanked, they fought like tigers, long after all hope of success had disappeared. De Kalb was on foot with the Maryland brigade, and fell in the arms of his aide-de-camp, with eleven wounds, from which he died in a few hours. Then Cornwallis attacked the two devoted brigades with the bayonet, at last breaking and scattering them. The defeat was hopeless and complete. The American army was absolutely broken up. Sumter had succeeded in his venture, and, learning of Gates' defeat, made a forced march with the captured train to a place some distance from the field, where he thought it safe to halt and rest his men. During the halt Tarleton made one of his sudden descents, and, before the Americans could reach their arms, completely scattered them and re-captured the train. The Americans lost two hundred wagons and nearly all their baggage, stores, small arms, and cannon. The loss in men was very heavy, British authorities stating it to have been between eight hundred and nine hundred killed, and one thousand prisoners, which, however, doubtless exceeds the truth. The enemy lost but three hundred and twenty-five killed and wounded.
As a result of the reckless folly of General Gates, there was no longer a: American army in the South ; only a few scattered and hunted fugi
tives, without shelter, arms or food, and there seemed to be, indeed, no further hope for Virginia, the Carolinas or Georgia.
Gates retired to Salisbury, thence to Hillsborough, to collect so much of his scattered force as possible, and await reinforcements.
Two other expeditions had been sent into the Carolinas at the same time as that headed by Cornwallis, but neither saw any service. Both found almost uniform readiness to submit, and their march was but little more than a holiday progress. The negroes joined them, conceiving themselves absolved from service; the tories, always cowards save when in the presence of scarlet cloth, were loud in rejoicing; the doubtful element was, as usual, well affected to the successful party, and the real patriots who were either serving elsewhere, or on parole, were so few and scattered as to be an imperceptible element in the problem. Clinton felt so confident that he released all prisoners save those at Charleston and Moultrie, from their paroles, and subjected them to the obligation of service in the royal cause. Then on the 5th of June, he sailed for New York with a portion of the army leaving Cornwallis, with the rest, to push the war through North Carolina and Virginia.
BATTLE OF KING'S MOUNTAIN-GATES RELIEVED BY GREENE.
"ORNWALLIS regarded the South as reduced beyond the fear of
resistance by the defeat of Gates and the death of De Kalb. He settled himself at Camden for the recuperation of his army, issued a prcclamation, calling upon the loyalists of North Carolina to arm and cut off the retreat of the remnant of Gates' army, and dispatched Major Patrick Ferguson, a brave and skillful tory partisan, to keep the war alive upon the western borders of the province. Ferguson's force numbered between eleven hundred and twelve hundred men, light infantry and royal militia, of his own levying and training, and they constituted a very formidable corps for partisan warfare. He was directed to skirt the mountain country beween the Catawba and Yadkin, harass the whigs, inspirit the tories and embody the militia under the royal banner. This done, he was to move to Charlotte, where Cornwallis would be in waiting, prepared for new and more important movements. Having carried out his instructions, Ferguson was returning to Charlotte to rejoin Cornwallis, when he learned that a force of American partisans, under Colonel Elijah Clarke of Georgia, was retreating towards the mountains of North Carolina. His own strength had been largely increased by the drawing of tories to his standard, and he could not resist the temptation to attempt the cutting off of Clarke. Consequently, he pushed through the narrow and steep defiles of the mountains and took post at a small frontier village, called Gilberttown. He was confident that no force existed, or could be raised, which could face him with any possibility of success. In this he was deceived. The marauds of his men had aroused the whole mountain region to fury. As a British writer says: “ All of a sudden, a numerous, fierce and unexpected enemy, sprung up in the depths of the desert. The scattered inhabitants of the mountains assembled without noise or warning, under the conduct of six or seven of