History From America's Most Famous Valleys
Popular History of the United States
Charles Schribner's Sons
Copyright, 1880 Charles Schribner's Sons
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BURGOYNE SUPERSEDES CARLETON. - PLAN OF A NORTHERN CAMPAIGN. - EMPLOYMENT OF INDIANS. - DEATH OF JANE MC CREA. -LOSS OF TICONDEROGA. - BATTLE OF HUBBARDTON. - ST. LEGER'S EXPEDITION INTO THE MOHAWK VALLEY. -BATTLE OF ORISKANY. -DEATH OF GENERAL HERKIMER. - BATTLE OF BENNINGTON. - MILITARY JEALOUSIES. - GATES DISPLACES SCHUYLER. - BATTLE OF FREEMAN'S FARM. - CLINTON'S EXPEDITION UP THE HUDSON RIVER. - FALL OF FORTS MONTGOMERY AND CLINTON. - SECOND BATTLE OF STILLWATER, OR BEMUS'S HEIGHTS.-BURGOYNE'S SURRENDER.
At the close of the campaign of 1777 -the year which the Tories loved to call the year of three gibbets - the British were in quiet possession of two of the three principal cities of the new Republic, one of them its capital; the national legislature was a fugitive body; the national army, after successive defeats, had marched with naked, "bloody feet," to Winter quarters, where, neglected by Congress, they were for months to suffer with hunger, to shiver for want of clothing through the long and dreary winter, and many, when the power of endurance was exhausted, to lie down and die of privation or disease. Yet, notwithstanding these gloomy and threatening clouds hung over the dawn of the new year, the fading light of the year that was passing away was ruddy and warm with the glow of one great success--a golden sunset that gave promise of a glorious tomorrow.
While at the South, Washington bad been able only, in the face of enormous difficulties, to avert overwhelming catastrophe and hold up the war against the splendid army and inexhaustible resources of Howe, at the North the plans of the ministry had come to naught, and such disaster had followed as, all things considered, had never before befallen the arms of England.
For reasons chiefly personal, there was no cordiality between the Secretary of State for the colonies and the Governor of Canada. Germain disliked Carleton. Carleton had great contempt for Germain. "That there is great prejudice," wrote the King to Lord North, in December, 1776, "perhaps not unaccompanied with rancor, in a certain breast against Governor Carleton, is so manifest to whoever has heard the subject mentioned, that it would be idle to say any more than that it is a fact. Perhaps Carleton may be too cold, and not so active as might be wished, which may make it advisable to have the part of the Canadian army which must attempt to join General Howe led by a more enterprising commander . . . . . Burgoyne may command the corps to be sent from. Canada to Albany."
Burgoyne, on his return to England about this time, after seeing the end of the American campaign in Canada, submitted to the Ministry his "Thoughts for conducting the war from the side of Canada." At a Council held in March it was determined to give him the command, and at the same time it was provided that a force under Lieutenant-colonel St. Leger should make a diversion on the Mohawk River. The instructions addressed to Carleton, acknowledging that this plan cannot be advantageously executed without the assistance of Canadians and Indians, "bade him furnish both expeditions with "good and sufficient bodies of those men." Carleton at once tendered his resignation of the governorship, yet did his utmost to assist Burgoyne. But this utmost, it appears, was not much, for Burgoyne describes the Canadians as ignorant of the use of arms, awkward, disinclined to the service, and spiritless." Against the Indians none of these objections, at least, could be urged; but Burgoyne understood well enough the more serious objections to their employment.
Burgoyne's plan assumed that the object of an expedition from Canada would be to obtain possession of Albany, control the Hudson River, cooperate with Howe, and thereby enable that General to act with his whole force to the southward. This, in the main, was the old project which had been broached and in part attempted the year before, to divide New England from the other States, and thus reduce the rest with greater case. In the prosecution of the plan, Burgoyne would have been glad to be allowed a certain latitude and discretion, such as a deviation from his line of march into Massachusetts and down the Connecticut ; but his final orders, which were precise and imperative, left him no choice but to march straight upon Albany and "force a junction" with Howe. Singularly enough, it nowhere appears that any such obligation was put upon Howe to meet Burgoyne, and, as events proved, Howe felt no such obligation. In this respect the scheme was fatally weak in execution. Cooperation was absolutely enjoined on the one General, but not upon the other.
The Earl of Shelburne thus explains the origin of this fatal blunder. In writing of Lord George Germain's incapacity, he says: "Among many singularities he (Germain) had a particular aversion to being put out of his way on any occasion; he had fixed to go into Kent or Northamptonshire at a particular hour, and to call on his way at his office to sign the dispatches, all of which had been settled, to both these Generals. By some mistake, those to General Howe were not fair copied, and upon his growing impatient at it, the office, which was a very idle one, promised to send it to the country after him while they dispatched the others to General Burgoyne, expecting that the others could be expedited before the packet sailed with the first, which, however, by some mistake, sailed without them, and the wind detained the vessel which was ordered to carry the rest. Hence came General Burgoyne's defeat, the French declaration, and the loss of thirteen colonies. It might appear incredible if his own secretary and the most respectable persons in office had not assured me of the fact; what corroborates it is, that it can be accounted for in no other way." - Fitzmaurice's Life of Shelburne, vol. i.
Burgoyne's army concentrated at St John's, on St. John's River, the outlet of Lake Champlain, on the 12th of June, and a day or two later embarked. A little less than eight thousand men composed the force, half of whom were British regulars and Canadian volunteers, and half Hessian contingents under General Riedesel. Forty pieces of artillery -- the finest trained in America - made the column especially formidable. Burgoyne's subordinate officers were experienced and skillful soldiers, including Generals Phillips, Riedesel, Fraser, Specht, Hamilton, and Earl Balcarras and Major Ackland, who respectively commanded the two choice corps of light infantry and grenadiers. The English fleet on the lake, consisting of nine vessels carrying one hundred and forty-three guns, and manned by six hundred and forty seamen, received its orders from Captain Lutwidge of the Royal George, acting as Commodore.
Encamping, about the 17th, at the river Bouquet, on the western shore of the lake, the English General at once prepared for active operations against Ticonderoga. During his delay at this point he addressed his Indian allies in an intensely rhetorical speech which became the subject of ridicule with Americans and opposition members in Parliament. The employment of savages in the expedition, suggested first by Burgoyne and then sanctioned by the King, The King's memorandum on Burgoyne's plan contains the sentence: "Indians must be employed, and this measure must be avowedly directed." Had been defended in the House of Lords upon grounds of necessity, and also as permissible on principle. "It is perfectly justifiable," said Suffolk, "to use all the means that God and nature has put into our hands." But Lord Chatham, astonished and shocked at the proposition, expressed his indignation in the strongest terms. There were many officers in the service who were opposed to having the red men as companions in arms.
Burgoyne himself appears to have appreciated the possible disgrace that the cruelties of these forest allies might bring upon his army, and in his address be invited them to fight for the King's cause, only on condition that they kept to the King's code. "I positively forbid bloodshed," he told them, "when you are not opposed in arms. Aged men, women, children, and prisoners must be held secure from the knife or hatchet, even in the time of actual conflict. You shall receive compensation for the prisoners you take, but you will be called to account for scalps. In conformity and indulgence to your customs, which have affixed an idea of honor to such badges of victory, you will be allowed to take the scalps of the dead when killed by your fire or in fair opposition; but on no account or pretense or subtlety or prevarication are they to be taken from the wounded or even from the dying, and still less pardonable will it be held to kill men in that condition." In ridicule of this appeal, Burke indulged in an illustration which delighted the House of Commons. " Suppose," he exclaimed, "there was a riot on Tower Hill. What would the keeper of his Majesty's lions do? Would he not fling open the dens of the wild beasts, and then address them thus: I My gentle lions-my humane bears-my tenderhearted hyenas, go forth! But I exhort you, as you are Christians, and members of civilized society, to take care not to hurt any man, woman, or child!
The unhappy fate of Jane McCrea, which was indirectly due to the employment of the savages by the English, excited every where the deepest horror and indignation, not merely against the Indians -though that could hardly be increased -but against the invaders who had made of these savages their allies and instruments. The manner of her death was at first uncertain; but as the horrible story sped far and wide through the country, the romance of personal considerations gathered about a tragic incident of war, and the feeling aroused was universal and intense. The certain facts appealed to the tenderest sympathies; so much was known to be true, that none thought of asking if anything could be false. She was young; she was beautiful; she was gently nurtured and of high social position; she was betrothed and about to be married to a young loyalist officer; she met her sudden death when in the hands of two Indians, and the long and beautiful hair, torn from her head, was shown afterward at Burgoyne's headquarters. So much was true, and it was enough to excite universal execration, even if the stories that were told of the manner of her death were untrue. It was natural enough that exaggerations should be accepted where there could be no doubt of so much that was sad and pitiful.
Though all that was told was not true, the incident exercised as deep an influence then, - and has ever since in its various forms as if it were. But Jane McCrea was not killed by the Indians, though she was their captive. A Mrs. McNeal, at whose house she was visiting, near Fort Edward, had received warning that there were Indians in the neighborhood, and she must take refuge at Fort Miller. Lieutenant Palmer with twenty men was sent by General Arnold as an escort for the family. While waiting for the household goods to be packed, Palmer made a reconnaissance in the neighborhood, fell into an ambuscade of savages, and twelve of his men, with Palmer himself, were killed at the first fire. The Indians then rushing to the house, seized Mrs. McNeal and Miss McCrea, mounted them on horseback, and started to escape, before their flight should be intercepted by assistance from the fort. The soldiers, however, were in time to fire upon them before they were quite out of reach, and by this fire Jane McCrea fell. She alone, sitting upright, was killed, as the Indians stooped at the fire, one of them exclaiming, " UM shoot too high for hit! " One of the Indians, though in rapid flight, paused long enough to seize her long hair and scalp her, exasperated, probably, at the loss of the reward offered by Burgoyne for white prisoners. "I never saw Jenny afterward," said Mrs. McNeal, -- who arrived the next day at the British camp, and related the facts, -- "nor anything that appertained to her person, until my arrival in the British camp, when an aid-de-camp showed me a fresh scalp-lock which I could not mistake, because the hair was unusually fine, luxuriant, lustrous, and dark as the wing of a raven." Miss McCrea was buried the next day by the soldiers who attempted her rescue, and who had heedlessly caused her death. Three bullet-holes were found in her body, but no other wounds, according to the testimony of Colonel Morgan Lewis, under whose direction the interment was made. When many years afterward the remains were disinterred, the skull was unbroken; no savage tomahawk had ever been "sunk " in it, as had been so long believed. The evidence on this subject seems conclusive. Mrs. McNeal was a cousin of General Fraser, and in his tent she told the story to General Burgoyne the day after her own escape and the death of Jane McCrea. It was related to Judge Hay, of Saratoga, who verified it fully by the evidence of other contemporary witnesses. All the testimony is carefully collated in an article in the Galaxy magazine for January, 1867, by William L. Stone.
After a brief stay at Crown Point the British army appeared before Ticonderoga on the 1st of the month, and immediately invested the fortress. This stronghold, the key of the North, as it was then assumed to be, it was confidently expected would prove a serious obstacle to Burgoyne's farther advance. The possibility of its capture or a necessity for its surrender was not contemplated by the Americans, and this over-confidence in the strength of the position led to that careless negligence common with inexperienced soldiers. General Arthur St. Clair, of Pennsylvania, was now in command of the post, with a force of three thousand men, and this he believed quite strong enough to bold it. His early messages had been so assuring that even Washington had no misgivings. Major-General Schuyler, who had superseded Gates in the command of the Northern Department, made all possible haste to strengthen the chain of posts from Ticonderoga to the Hudson and Albany. He called upon the governors of contiguous States which this invasion immediately threatened, for speedy assistance; Putnam, who was in command on the Hudson, was asked to send up regiments from Peekskill; the several Committees of Safety were urged to diligence to provide against the common danger, and word was sent to General Herkimer, up the Mohawk, to be prepared for the enemy on the western frontier. But responses to these appeals came in slowly, and Schuyler's resources for meeting the emergency were altogether inadequate. Moreover, neither he nor St. Clair had fully fathomed Burgoyne's designs. They did not know whether his move upon so strong a post as Ticonderoga was simply a feint to cover an extended flank maneuver, or whether be would march directly from that point into New England. St. Clair's force was too small to cover every exposed point, and to save some of his outpost detachments he withdrew them. One of those he was compelled to abandon was the commanding eminence of Mount Hope. This the English General Fraser promptly took possession of, and mounting heavy guns there cut off the communication of the Americans with Lake George. The unexpected occupation of another point, made the enemy masters of the position and brought to their opponents disaster that, at the moment, seemed irremediable.
South of the American fortress a steep, wooded height rose more than six hundred feet above the level of the lake, and over looked every fortified elevation in the vicinity. It was known as Sugar Loaf Mountain, and because of its supposed inaccessibility had been neglected in former wars, and thus far in this. The possibility of dragging cannon to its summit had been admitted by officers in the American camp, but it was not supposed that the enemy would attempt it, and St. Clair, even had he occupied it, had not sufficient force to hold more ground than had already been fortified. Burgoyne's engineers, however, were men of skill and energy. Noticing the importance of this eminence, they secretly made a path over which artillery could be hauled to the top, and, on the morning of the 5th, surprised the Americans with a line of nearly completed works whose fire could not be endured by the garrison of Ticonderoga for an hour. The aspect of affairs was suddenly and completely changed.
From Fort Defiance, as the enemy called their new position, a terribly destructive cannonade would undoubtedly be opened within twenty-four hours, and to the plunging shot from that elevation there could be no return. A council of war was hastily summoned, and it was decided that Ticonderoga should be evacuated that night, though it was hardly hoped that it could be done without great loss. It was the only rational thing to do. The capture of the place was inevitable, and resistance would be madness; there was just a chance of saving the garrison, and this St. Clair and his officers wisely concluded to attempt before it was too late. The subordinate generals at the post were Poor, of New Hampshire, Paterson, of Massachusetts, arid De Fermoy, a French officer. The troops were composed of 2,500 Continentals, poorly clothed and armed, and about 900 militia. Both Schuyler and St. Clair were tried by courts-martial, as being responsible for the supposed disaster, but both were honorably acquitted. That the purpose should not be suspected by the enemy, firing was kept up as usual through the day, but at dusk the guns were spiked, tents were struck, and the women and the sick were sent up the lake with the stores in boats to Skenesborough, under the charge of Colonel Long's regiment. At three o'clock in the morning of the 6th the troops marched out of the Ticonderoga forts and moved toward Castleton, nearly thirty miles southeast. All had safely left the place without giving the alarm, when suddenly the house which General De Fermoy bad occupied as his headquarters, burst into flames, having been set on fire contrary to orders. Its blaze discovered the Americans on the retreat, and immediate preparations were made for pursuit.
Generals Fraser and Riedesel pushed after St. Clair, while Burgoyne and Phillips, with the fleet and right wing of the army, breaking through all obstructions, sailed up the lake, or South River, in chase of Colonel Long and the American flotilla. Long and his party reached Skenesborough about three o'clock in the afternoon, and at once marched to Fort Ann, eleven miles southward. Here Colonel Long, determined to retreat no farther without a fight, faced about. The next day, three miles north of Fort Ann, at Wood's Creek he met the Ninth regulars under Lieutenant-Colonel Hill, whom he handled so severely that but for the arrival of a party of Indians the enemy would have been dispersed, if not captured in a body. Gathering his wounded, Long abandoned Fort Ann, and fell back to Fort Edward, thirteen miles below.
St. Clair was less fortunate. He retreated all day through the Battle of woods, leaving a part of his force at Hubbardton, and marching with the rest to Castleton. Fraser followed promptly on their heels, with ten companies of light infantry, ten of grenadiers, and two companies of the Twenty-fourth regiment -- in all, eight hundred men. Diary of Joshua Pell, Junior, an officer of the British army in America, 1776-1777. Magazine of Am. Hist., vol. ii., p. 107. (1878.) On the morning of the 7th he attacked the detachment St. Clair had left at Hubbardton, of about thirteen hundred men, under the New Hampshire Colonels Warner, Francis, and Hale. A sharp engagement followed, in which the Americans held their ground for a while, in spite of the defection of Hale's regiment, which abandoned the field. But Fraser was reinforced by Riedesel with fresh troops, who by a spirited bayonet-charge turned the right wing and compelled a retreat. Warner and Francis, however, had made a good fight. The American loss was about three hundred and fifty; forty officers and men -- among them Colonel Francis -- were killed; the rest were wounded or taken prisoners. The subsequent capture of Colonel Hale and many of his men increased the loss in prisoners to more than three hundred. The British also suffered severely, According to Pell's diary, ante, the enemy's loss was: Major Grant, 1 Captain, and 2 Lieutenants killed; Majors Balcarras and Ackland, 4 Captains, and 8 Lieutenants wounded, Two Sergeants and 24 men killed; 10 Sergeants and 104 men wounded. The Hessians lost two killed and one Lieutenant and 22 men wounded. though victory remained on their side. The American force dispersed through the woods. On the 12th inst. General St. Clair, after making a circuitous march of more than a hundred miles, reached Fort Edward with the remnant of the army which he had led from the fort.
The loss of Ticonderoga and the reverses that followed it, excited universal alarm. The whole Northern Department seemed at the mercy of the enemy. The inhabitants along the upper Hudson believed that nothing could hinder Burgoyne from rapidly advancing to Albany, and, that point gained, the junction with Howe would be all but accomplished. The evacuation,"wrote Washington, when the news reached him, is an event of chagrin and surprise not apprehended, nor within the compass of my reasoning. This stroke is severe indeed, and has distressed us much." When the news reached England, it was received there with as much exultation as it aroused despondency in the States. As the first important and successful step in the campaign, it was hailed as an evidence of the wisdom of the Ministry, as well as a proof of the weakness of the colonists. In the first moment of triumph on one side, and of disappointment on the other, the fact was overlooked that the loss, on one side, and the gain on the other, of even a commanding position, involved no question of the general efficiency of either. There was undoubtedly an error of judgment, and -- if Ticonderoga was of the importance so long attached to it--a very serious error; but it ought to have been remembered that the scientific soldier on one side could see the possibility and importance of a move, which the civilian lately turned soldier on the other side would be utterly blind to. Had either Schuyler or St. Clair had a military training, he perhaps would have seen the strategic importance of Sugar Loaf Mountain, and the absolute necessity of preventing its being occupied by the British. This certainly ought to have been done, though there were those who were by no means disposed to look upon the loss of Ticonderoga as an irremediable misfortune. " It is predicted " --wrote Thacher, in his "Military Journal," under date of July 14th - "by some of our well-informed and respectable characters, that this event, apparently so calamitous, will ultimately prove advantageous by drawing the British army into the heart of our country, and thereby placing them more immediately within our power." But this was a blind trusting in Providence without regard to the condition of the powder.
All the troops that General Schuyler could muster at Fort Edward by the middle of July numbered barely five thousand, --militia and Continentals. Again he called for assistance. Washington sent him Nixon's and Glover's brigades and Morgan's unequalled rifle-men, besides guns, ammunition, and tents which he could ill spare from his own army. General Arnold and General Lincoln, of Massachusetts, were also ordered to report to Schuyler. Burgoyne's delay gave time for the arrival of these reinforcements, and by the 6th of August the Americans numbered six thousand, two thirds of whom were tolerably well armed Continentals.
Schuyler, on retreating from Fort Ann to Fort Edward, tore up the roads, felled trees, destroyed all the bridges, and drove off the cattle, to the great disgust and delay of Burgoyne's soldiers, who had hoped that their recent successes would insure them an easy march to the Hudson River. Colonel John Trumbull, Schuyler's Adjutant-general, wrote on July 25 as follows: Our little army are now returned to Moses Kill, two or three miles below Fort Edward. They were seriously delayed, moreover, by the tardy arrival of their provisions, which had to be brought from Canada by a long and tedious route through the lakes and over difficult portages. The month of July had almost gone before they reached the river at Fort Edward. Schuyler abandoned this fort on the 22d, to take a better position on Moses Creek, three miles below. Thence be fell back a few days later to Saratoga, then to Stillwater, and finally to Van Schaick's Island, where the Mohawk runs into the Hudson.
Burgoyne's plan of the campaign included a cooperating force to go up the St. Lawrence to Oswego, and through the Mohawk Valley to Albany, there to join the main body. The purpose was, to distract the Americans on their flank, crush out rebellion in the valley, secure the active cooperation of the large Tory element in its population, and thus bring all western New York completely under control of the English by the time the British army should reach Albany. The force sent upon this expedition to the Mohawk Valley was composed of seven hundred white troops of all arms, including regulars, Sir John Johnson's Loyal "Greens," many of whom bad their homes along the Mohawk, and about one thousand Indians under Joseph expedition. Brant, the chief of the Mohawk tribe. Barry St. Leger, Lieutenant-colonel of the Thirty-fourth Regiment of the British army, to whom the preference was given, both by Burgoyne and the King, had the chief command. His corps, rather less than eighteen hundred strong, reached the vicinity of Fort Stanwix on the 3d of August.
This old fortification, built in the previous war, on the Mohawk Fort Schuyler River, a few miles east of the present village of Rome, was now better known as Fort Schuyler. Recognizing the importance of the post, the Americans had garrisoned it with about seven hundred and fifty New York and Massachusetts Continental troops under Colonel Gansevoort, of New York, who had served in Montgomery's expedition to Canada. He had put the place in an excellent condition for defense, and St. Leger's summons for surrender was met with a prompt refusal.
The patriotic people of the valley, warned in time of the approach of the enemy, and yielding neither to panic nor despair, were ready to All the houses, barracks, stores, etc., at the latter place, are burned and destroyed. It seems a maxim to General Schuyler to leave no support to the enemy as be retires; all is devastation and waste when he leaves. By this means the enemy will not be able to pursue so fast as they could wish; want of carriages, I am told, will be a great hindrance to their progress; they were not provided, it seems, from Canada.. . . . Ten days or a fortnight, I fancy, will put our people into a situation to stand, if we can obtain that time from the enemy, and in that time are reinforced from below with 2,000 or 3,000 Continental troops . . . . . I wish General Washington could see our situation; am sure he would give us a reinforcement." - MS. letter. Trumbull Papers, in the possession of the Massachusetts Historical Society. throw themselves in St. Leger's path, and save the fort, their farms, and their homes. At the earliest alarm, the militia turned out, eight hundred in number, and hurried forward to the relief of Gansevoort, with the veteran General Nicholas Herkimer at their head. This old soldier, an energetic German, had so heartily identified himself with the popular cause, was so well known through central New York, and so highly esteemed among his neighbors, that his leadership was in itself an element of strength. On the 4th of August, the militia crossed the Mohawk where Utica now stands, and the following day Herkimer sent word to Gansevoort of his approach, and proposed that the garrison should meet him at an appointed time by a sortie. This plan, however, was defeated by some delays in the march.
<-Facsimile of an order by General Herkimer. Translation: SIR, You will order your battalion to march immediately to Fort Edward, with four days' provisions, and ammunition fit for one battle. This you will disobey (at) your peril. From (your) friend, NICHOLAS HERCHEIMER. To Colonel Peter Bellinger, at the Flatts, October 18, 1776.
St. Leger had heard of Herkimer's approach, and had taken measures to intercept it. Having failed in his first purpose, Herkimer would have moved slowly and with caution; but permitting his better judgment to be overruled by the reproaches of younger officers especially of Colonel Parris, one of the Committee of Safety, and of Colonel Cox, who accused him of want of energy and spirit -- he ordered a rapid advance. The militia of the Mohawk Valley, whose experience of Indian warfare should have taught them better, marched carelessly along the bends of the river and through ravines, till a deep wooded hollow was reached near Oriskany. At one end of this the British regulars lay in ambush, and the Indian allies were in concealment on both sides. When Herkimer and his men were fairly within this defile, a destructive fire was opened upon them by the hidden enemy; the rear guard was cut off from the main body, driven back, and dispersed, many being taken prisoners, and the provision train captured. Herkimer was mortally wounded, and his horse shot under him. Seating himself upon his saddle at the foot of a tree where he could overlook the field, he continued to give orders while he calmly smoked his pipe. To all remonstrances, urging him to retire, he said, "I will face the enemy." His men, as brave now as they had been rash before, determined to fight to the last. In groups of two or three, from behind trees, or any point of advantage that the nature of the ground afforded, they met or assailed the enemy ; men encountered each other in hand-to-hand fights with clubbed rifles, with tomahawks, with knives. Captain Gardener killed three men in quick succession with his spear. Captain Dillenback, attacked at once by three men, brained the first, shot the second, and bayonetted the third. Henry Thompson rested long enough to take his lunch, as he sat upon the body of a dead soldier, and then resumed his fighting. Address at the Centennial Anniversary of the Battle of Oriskany. By Ellis H. Roberts. Thirty men of Johnson's Greens, who rushed into the midst of the fight under the pretense of reinforcing the Americans, were fallen upon and instantly killed. For five hours the desperate battle continued, till the ground was covered with the dead and wounded, nearly two hundred being killed on each side.
<-Herkimer at the Battle of Oriskany.
At length the welcome sound of firing was heard in the direction of Fort Schuyler. The messengers sent forward the day before, had reached the fort, and immediately Gansevoort organized a sortie composed of two hundred and fifty New York and Massachusetts men under Lieutenant-Colonel Willett, of New York. The party made a rapid dash into the enemy's camp, where only a few troops remained, captured flags, baggage, stores, and papers, and by their firing relieved Herkimer of the enemy on his front and flanks.
The Indians, having lost many of their warriors, were the first to retreat at the sound of Willett's musketry, and the whole British force soon followed, leaving the Americans in possession of the field. It was a complete check to St. Leger's proposed movement, though he still persisted in the siege of the fort. When, however, soon after, rumors reached him of the approach of Arnold with a second relief party of Continentals, whose numbers were magnified by couriers sent designedly into the enemy's camp, the Indian allies became alarmed, and compelled St. Leger to abandon the siege and hurry back in the direction from which he came.
To the memory of Herkimer, who, ten days after the battle, died like a philosopher and a Christian," Congress ordered a monument, which has never been erected; to Willett it presented a sword, and to Gansevoort its thanks. It was not an over-estimiate of the importance of this repulse of the British invasion of the Mohawk Valley. Burgoyne's plan of the campaign was in one essential part entirely frustrated, while soon after fresh disaster met his advance in another direction.
At Bennington, Vt., then known as the " Hampshire Grants," twenty-five miles east of Burgoyne's line of march, the Americans had established a depot of horses and stores, which, in the destitute condition of his army, was much coveted by the English commander. His provisions were giving out, and a timely supply from Canada was doubtful. On the 6th of the month there was hardly enough on hand for the consumption of two days. Encouraged by the statements of Philip Skene, the principal loyalist in that region, and of scouts and deserters, Burgoyne organized a secret expedition, not only to capture the Bennington depot, but to demonstrate toward the Connecticut Valley, overawe the country, and then to return by a circuitous march to Albany. For the leader of the raid he selected Lieutenant-Colonel Baume, an accomplished and trusted German officer, and gave him for his command a select corps, about five hundred strong, consisting of Hessians, dragoons, English light infantry under Captain Fraser, and a party of loyalist rangers. About one hundred Indians also hung upon the column. Receiving minute instructions from his commander-in-chief as to what he was to do in any possible emergency, and to exercise the utmost caution, Baume left the main army on the 11th, and on the afternoon of the 13th reached the township of Cambridge, sixteen miles distant. On the next day, writing "on the head of a barrel," he sent word back to Burgoyne, that the rebels were now apprised of the expedition, but that the Tories were flocking in to him; that his Indians were uncontrollable, ruining or taking everything they pleased; and that reports made the strength of the American militia at Bennington about eighteen hundred, all told. On receiving this information, Burgoyne ordered forward, on the 15th, Colonel Breyman and five hundred Brunswick chasseurs, to reinforce Baume.
In the old farming town of Dunbarton, Merrimack County, New Hampshire, still stands the venerable mansion from which John Stark hurried with the farmers to Boston, at the news of the fight at Lexington, and which he had now again left to meet this marauding expedition sent against his own neighbors. At Bunker Hill and Trenton the veteran colonel had already gained high reputation, and in this exigency he was the man above all others to lead whatever troops might gather at Bennington. All that region would answer his call. Why he was not with Schuyler and the main American body at this time, is to be explained by the unfortunate jealousies existing in that department, and his own conviction that he bad been neglected in the last promotion of general officers. But his patriotism was unimpeached, and at such a moment he was ready for action. Burgoyne's approach had aroused all New Hampshire to renewed efforts to do her duty in the defense of the country. "I have," said John Langdon, President of the Assembly, "three thousand dollars in hard money; my plate I will pledge for as much more. I have seventy hogsheads of Tobago rum, which shall be sold for the most they will bring. These are at the service of the State. If we succeed, I shall be remunerated; if not, they will be of no use to me." The State promptly ordered out the militia, and gave Stark the command.
<-General John Stark
The men answering to the summons came from the best class of people in the "Grants." Stark's brigade consisted of fifteen hundred militia under Colonels Nichols and Stickney, while Colonels Seth Warner, Herrick, and Williams reported with companies of Green Mountain boys. The entire force which gathered to resist invasion was not far from twenty-two hundred. On the morning of the 14th the greater part of it reached Bennington, Warner's men marching all night in the rain from Manchester, Vermont. Stark had heard of Baume's approach, and he marched instantly to support Lieutenant-Colonel Gregg, who had been detached the day before to skirmish with and delay the enemy. During the forenoon of the 14th the forces came within sight of each other, and Baume at once took up a commanding position overlooking a bend in the Walloomscoik River.
A heavy rain prevented movements on the 15th. On the 16th Stark moved to attack the enemy on three sides at once. Colonels Nichols and Herrick, with about five hundred men, made their way through the woods to his left and rear, their approach frightening the Indians off the field. Colonels Stickney and Hubbard engaged some detached parties, while Stark with the main body attacked Baume in front. Tradition runs that, as soon as the General came in sight of the enemy, he exclaimed, " See there, my men! -there are the redcoats! Before night they're ours, or Molly Stark's a widow." The tradition maybe wrong, however, as tradition so often is. Mrs. Stark's name was neither Molly nor Mary, but Elizabeth. For two hours the fight continued, the Americans pressing upon the enemy with the steadiness and cool persistency of men used to battle, at times dashing up the hill at the earthworks, in spite of the warm reception given them. Surrounded nearly on all sides, by this determined conduct of the militia, the British finally gave way, and attempted to escape by their only road of retreat; but in this they were foiled, and the entire body surrendered. Baume was mortally wounded.
Greatly elated by their success, the militiamen scattered to plunder the abandoned camp. In this disregard of discipline and loss of order, they came near losing all the advantage they had gained by their courage and previous good behavior. Colonel Breyman arrived upon the field with reinforcements, and all that had been won would have been lost had not Stark, who was prompt to see it, met this new emergency, and sent Colonel Warner with a fresh regiment to the rescue of the almost discomfited and disordered men. Breyman was driven back by Warner with considerable loss. When night closed, victory for the Americans was assured. They had taken four cannon and nearly seven hundred prisoners, with a loss to themselves of less than a hundred in killed and wounded.
This new disaster to Burgoyne, following so closely upon the repulse in the Mohawk Valley, gave a new and cheerful aspect to affairs in the Northern Department. New England was full of enthusiasm, and volunteers hastened from all quarters to strengthen the American army. "Pray let no time be lost," wrote General Glover to James Warren in the Massachusetts Legislature, to urge the sending on of men; "a day's delay may be fatal to America. Let the body be as large as can possibly be collected." In Connecticut hundreds of the militia pressed forward. As an evidence of the general enthusiasm, Noah Webster records that his father, his two brothers, and himself shouldered their muskets and marched to the field, leaving their mother and sisters alone to carry on the farm. The militia in northern and central New York turned out with equal alertness.
Rivalries and disputes as to precedence and the right of promotion were among the fruits of the want of discipline which existed in the Revolutionary armies, and sometimes, no doubt, interfered with the efficiency of military operations. But party spirit and sectional jealousies not unfrequently governed Congress in the choice of major-generals; and both Arnold and Stark had been passed over, early this year, and their juniors preferred to them from other considerations than those of military merit. Arnold never recovered from this wound to his pride and self-love; and if the vindictiveness it engendered did not lead him to treason, it made it easier for him to be a traitor. Stark was of different stuff. It was his self-respect, not his self-love, that was wounded, and though he retired from the army where his past services entitled him to recognition which he did not receive, no man could be quicker than he to take the field again, as we have just seen, when it was clear that his services were again needed. Nowhere had jealousy and misunderstanding bred so much mischief and bitterness as in this Northern Department. One general after another had been displaced, and each had been exposed to reprehension where each had probably done the best that circumstances would admit of. Wooster, Thomas, Sullivan, Schuyler, Gates, had followed each other in rapid succession, till the autumn of 1776, when Schuyler by an appeal to Congress had procured his reinstatement.
Both he and Gates had strong friends and bitter opponents. Schuyler had little confidence in the New England troops, and the New England troops and their representatives in Congress had just as little confidence in him. Both were wrong: there were no better soldiers in the army than those from New England; there was no more devoted patriot, nor a braver soldier in the country than Schuyler. Provincial jealousies, as old as the French and Indian wars, had much to do with the feeling of mutual mistrust; and Schuyler's misfortunes rather than his faults, in the conduct of the campaign thus far, could be easily used as effective weapons against him by those who sincerely doubted his military ability, or who resented his avowed contempt of the New England troops. When Ticonderoga was lost, it was attributed to his want of generalship, and before that was atoned for by the subsequent successes under his command, Gates, who was. a better politician than soldier, had induced Congress to give him Schuyler's place at the very moment when he bad nothing to do but reap the advantage of Schuyler's successful movements. Congress had not heard of Herkimer's and Stark's victories when they reinstated Gates at the head of the northern army. " Gen. Gates is a happy man to arrive at a moment when Gen. Schuyler had just paved the way to victory; he has not taken any measures yet, and cannot claim the honor of anything that has as yet happened." - MS. letter from Col. Varick, Albany, Aug. 23, 1777. N. Y. Mercantile Library.
As September advanced, the distance between Gates and Burgoyne decreased. On the 12th, the former moved his camp from the mouth of the Mohawk and took position on Bemus's Heights in Bemus's the town of Stillwater, twenty-five miles north of Albany. The site, which was commanding, and capable of easy defense, bad been selected by Arnold and Kosciusko, and under the direction of this Polish engineer was strengthened by a line of breast works and redoubts. With the right resting on the Hudson, the left on ridges and woods, and the front made impregnable by a ravine and abatis, Gates felt himself secure against direct assault. To continue his march to Albany, Burgoyne must first crush this obstacle.
The difficulties encountered by the British in bringing up supplies, fatally delayed their progress. Recognizing the absolute necessity of pushing on, they attacked the Americans on Bemus's Heights as soon as they reached that point. Both sides had their entire force in hand. The strength of Gates's army was about nine thousand. On the right, where he himself commanded, were posted Nixon's, Glover's, and Patterson's Continental brigades, all Massachusetts troops; in the center, Learned's brigade, mainly from the same State; and upon the left, where Arnold was assigned the command, lay General Poor's brigade of the three New Hampshire Continental regiments under Colonels Cilley, Scammell, and Hale; the third and fourth New York, under Colonels Van Courtlandt and Henry Livingston, and two large Connecticut militia regiments under Colonels Thaddeus Cook, of Litchfield, and Jonathan Latimer, of New London County. Attached to Arnold's wing, but usually operating at the front, were the famous rifle corps under Colonel Daniel Morgan, This corps, which rendered conspicuous service in the engagements with Burgoyne, was made up of good marksmen chosen from the regiments which composed Washington's army at Morristown in the spring. They were nearly all from the Middle and Southern States. Morgan's seconds in command were Lieutenant-Ccolonel William Butler of Pennsylvania, and Major Morris of New Jersey. Washington organized the corps for his own campaign, but sent it to Gates, upon the latter's urgent request for reinforcements. of Virginia, and a body of about three hundred Continental light infantry, detailed for the campaign and commanded by Major Henry Dearborn of New Hampshire.
Skirmishing on the 18th warned the enemy that parties for forage could go out safely only in force. A party of soldiers gathering potatoes, a mile from camp, were attacked, and killed or captured by the Americans. Burgoyne immediately issued an order threatening instant death to every man who ventured beyond the advanced sentries. No useless exposure was permitted. "The life of the soldier," he declared, "is the property of the King."
On the 19th serious work began. Breaking camp at Swords' Farm, on the river bank, five miles north of Gates's position, Burgoyne moved forward to the attack in three columns. Generals Phillips and Riedesel followed the main road along the Hudson, with the artillery; the center, which Burgoyne accompanied, moved toward Freeman's Farm, about opposite the American left; while General Fraser took a more westerly route, with the design of turning Gates's left flank.
The intentions of the enemy being evident, the regiments of Arnold's wing were successively ordered out to face Fraser and Burgoyne, while the brigades on the right remained at their posts within the works, awaiting events. Fraser's advance consisted of Canadians and Indians, and the engagement opened towards noon, about a mile from the lines, between them and Morgan's riflemen and Dearborn's infantry. The enemy's skirmishers were at first driven back, but on the approach of Fraser's supports, Morgan was compelled to retreat in some confusion, with the loss of a captain and twenty men taken prisoners. Rallying his corps, however, with his powerful voice and the call of his shrill whistle, Morgan was soon in position again. Scammell's and Cilley's New Hampshire regiments had been already sent out to support him, and in a short time nearly the whole of Poor's brigade was in line to resist the advance of the enemy on that flank.
By this time, between one and two o'clock, Burgoyne's central column had reached Freeman's Farm, and with Fraser on the right presented a determined front. The left column was still advancing along the river. But as Morgan and Poor's brigade had now concentrated in front of Burgoyne, Fraser could not have continued his independent flank movement without exposing the center, and the two columns were soon compelled to join their fronts as a continuous line.
Thick woods, interspersed with occasional clearings and ravines, covered the battleground. Taking advantage of this protection, the contending lines could approach each other within close range. As the New Hampshire men came up to reinforce Morgan, and the action was renewed, the firing steadily increased in volume and effect, continuing until sunset. For some distance between the two lines lay a hollow, and the attempt on each side to drive the other from its position was invariably followed with serious loss. When Cilley first became engaged, so many of his men fell in twenty minutes that he could save himself only by falling back on reinforcements. With these the regiment went into the fight again with great spirit, and fought till night. Colonel Scammell fearlessly led his regiment where the fire was the hottest. Lieutenant-Colonels Adams and Coburn, of the Second and Third New Hampshire, fell dead in the heat of the battle. The two New York regiments, which were sent out during the action, became hotly engaged, especially the Second under Colonel Courtlandt. Cook's and Latimer's Connecticut militiamen also distinguished themselves by their steadiness and courage, Cook's losing fifty men killed and wounded, or more than any other regiment except Cilley's. Major William Hull, of Massachusetts, lost nearly half of three hundred men under his command. For four hours the battle continued in the woods, without a decisive result. The enemy fought with desperation, under the lead of their gallant officers. Their four pieces of artillery --- the Americans having none on the field - became at one time the central point of the contest. A party of New Hampshire men charged upon and seized a twelve-pounder, only to be driven from it by a larger body of the enemy. Again it was taken by the Americans, and again they were forced back. Private Thomas Haines, of Concord, sat astride the muzzle of the piece when the enemy last came up, and killed two men with his bayonet before a bullet struck him down. Journal of Lieutenant Thomas Blake. Thirty-six out of the forty-eight British gunners in this desperate struggle were either killed or wounded.
Later in the afternoon Learned's brigade entered the field, and Arnold's entire wing was thus engaged. The General himself was present during at least a portion of the afternoon, not only issuing orders, but keeping the troops up to the fight by his daring example. General Wilkinson, Gates's Adjutant-general, asserts in his Memoirs that no general officer was on the field on the 19th, and this statement is adopted by Mr. Bancroft and others, who insist that Arnold took no part in the fight. Beyond the authorities which have been quoted to the contrary, we have the Memoirs of Major Hull and the diary of Colonel Courtlandt, both of whom say they received orders from Arnold in the field. General Carrington, in his recent Battles of the Revolution, properly observes that it would be utterly inconsistent with Arnold's nature and the position he occupied to suppose that he remained quietly in camp while his entire division was out fighting the enemy. From the nature of the ground, however, and as the troops were sent into action at intervals by regiments, the movements were conducted mainly by the colonels. At sunset the firing ceased, the Americans withdrew to their fortified line, and the enemy were left in possession of the field. In a military point of view, it was a drawn battle; but it had checked Burgoyne's advance and was in reality a decisive success for the army under Gates. The British fortified the ground they held from the river to Freeman's Farm. Their loss had been heavy, especially in officers, the total being over six hundred and fifty, while the American loss was sixty-five killed, two hundred and eighteen wounded, and thirty-eight missing, or less than half the enemy's. Of the Twentieth and Sixty-second British regulars, scarcely fifty men and five officers survived the battle.
General Glover briefly described the action as follows, in a letter of September 21: The battle was very hot till half-past two o'clock; ceased about half an hour, then renewed the attack. Both armies seemed determined to conquer or die. One continual blaze, without any intermission, until dark, when by consent of both parties it ceased; during which time we several times drove them, took the ground, passing over great numbers of their dead and wounded. The enemy in their turn sometimes drove us. They were bold, intrepid, and fought like heroes, and I do assure you, sirs, our men were equally bold and courageous and fought like men fighting for their all." - Essex Institute Hist. Coll., vol. v. No. 3.
The enemy's loss on the 19th has heretofore only been estimated. From Pell's diary, already quoted, we get the details, namely: 4 captains, 9 subalterns, 11 sergeants, 219 rank and file, killed. Two lieutenant-colonels, 2 majors, 7 captains, 13 subalterns, 6 sergeants, 400 rank and file, wounded. The American loss is given by Gordon, who took it from the report of the Board of War.
Eighteen days elapsed before there was any further movement. In the interval Gates grew stronger, Burgoyne weaker. The action of the 19th and its result were hailed with joy throughout the country. Militia continued to march northward. General Ten Broeck joined the army with over two thousand men from New York; Lincoln brought in as many from Massachusetts and New Hampshire. General Oliver Wolcott, of Connecticut, went up with three hundred volunteers, the majority of the militia from that State being retained at Peekskill under Generals Putnam and Silliman. Stark threatened Burgoyne's communications at Fort Edward. Colonel John Brown, of Pittsfield, with five hundred men, made a dash at Ticonderoga, and took prisoners and guns.
Around the enemy a net was forming, which they must break through at one end or the other, or be captured. One gleam of hope remained for them. Operating in dense woods, with uncertain means of communication with New York, Burgoyne had for weeks been in total ignorance of the progress of events elsewhere. He had advanced, expecting every hour to bear that a cooperating column was moving up the Hudson to Albany, which would compel Gates to fall back -- both to save that point and to save his army. As time passed, the hope of this relief grew stronger. On September 21st intelligence came from Sir Henry Clinton that an expedition would sail up the Hudson in about ten days, for the purpose of attacking Forts Clinton and Montgomery, a few miles below West Point, and thus create a diversion which must be in Burgoyne's favor.
Clinton kept his promise, and succeeded in doing much damage and creating much alarm along the Hudson. On the 3d of October he left New York, moving with a large force by land and water, and on the 5th reached Verplanck's Point, forty miles up the river. From this point a large detachment was sent in boats, convoyed by ships, toward Peekskill, as a feint to cover the crossing of the main body early on the 6th, to King's Ferry on the west side of the Hudson. A heavy fog favored the move. General Putnam, in command at Peekskill, was deceived by this maneuver and took no precautions against the advance at King's Ferry. Following a circuitous route around Danderberg mountain, Clinton appeared in the afternoon before Forts Montgomery and Clinton, and carried both by assault. Governor George Clinton of New York exerted himself to save the posts, and General James Clinton received a bayonet-wound. The American loss was about three hundred, of whom sixty or seventy were killed and wounded. The British dismantled the forts, burned two American frigates, destroyed stores, and ended their incursion by marching to Esopus (now Kingston) and laying it in ashes. Putnam, who could send no assistance to the forts in time, retreated farther up the river, abandoning the fortified points, and took post at Fishkill. The Hudson was thus left open to the fleet of the enemy, who, satisfied with their success, returned to New York. A court of inquiry relieved Putnam from responsibility for these reverses in his department, serious as they were, and disastrous as they might have been.
Burgoyne's situation was becoming more and more critical. His provisions were giving out, and it was necessary either to advance or to retreat. He determined to advance, and on the 7th of October moved with a select detachment of fifteen hundred regulars and ten guns to turn the American left. His best general officers were with him -- Phillips, Riedesel, and Fraser. Taking position in open ground within less than a mile of the American works, his advance sought to reach the American rear.
No sooner was Gates apprised of Burgoyne's appearance than he ordered out Morgan and his riflemen "to begin the game." The fighting was even more desperate and decisive than that of the 19th of September. The enemy's advance was driven in, and Morgan made his way to Burgoyne's right, where Fraser was in command. Poor's and Learned's brigades were ordered to attack the left, while other troops were held in readiness to enter the action where needed. As Poor and Learned advanced, they were met by a sharp but ineffectual volley from Ackland's grenadiers, to which they replied with close and telling discharges. The attack soon proved decisive, and the grenadiers and artillerymen fled from the field, leaving Ackland wounded and a prisoner. Nearly at the same moment Morgan and Dearborn fell upon the right of the enemy and routed it with serious loss. The center held its ground until driven back by further reinforcements from Gates's lines, including Ten Broeck's New York militia. Scarcely one hour after the British gave battle, their whole line was retiring in disorder towards their camp.
At this juncture Arnold appeared upon the field. Personal differences with Gates had led to his removal from command since the battle of the 19tb, but he had remained in camp. When this action opened, he joined his old division, now hotly engaged, and assumed control of its movements, notwithstanding his removal. On hearing of this defiance of his authority, Gates sent an aid to recall him; but Arnold, keeping out of the way of the messenger, placed himself at the head, now of one brigade and now of another, and led them to the attack at different points with good judgment and undaunted courage. His conduct roused the troops to enthusiasm, -- -who cheered and followed wherever he led. As he entered the field the British line was already breaking. Under his impetuous assaults, first with Patterson's and Glover's brigades, and then with Learned's, the enemy gave way everywhere in confusion. Even when driven to their entrenchment's, at dusk, the vigorous charge of Arnold and Morgan on the extreme right, broke through the line of works and forced the Germans to abandon their position. In this last charge Arnold was wounded as he was entering the sally-port. In his report of the action, Gates had the magnanimity to mention Arnold's services, and Congress at once promoted him to the rank of major-general.
The loss on the side of the Americans in this well-fought field was remarkably small; not over fifty were killed, and about one hundred were wounded. On the other side the loss was much heavier, their killed alone outnumbering all the casualties of their opponents. British loss on October 7 - Pell's Diary: One General, I lieutenant-colonel, 2 captains, 7 subalterns, 5 sergeants, 160 rank and file killed. [No return of wounded.] Two majors, 2 captains, 8 subalterns, 16 sergeants, 7 drums, 234 rank and file, prisoners. Estimating their wounded at 250, their total loss was nearly half of the select body they brought into the field. Their heaviest blow was in the fall of General Fraser. Quite as brave and almost as reckless as Arnold, his example was no less inspiriting to the troops he led, and to him more than to any other British officer was due their desperate resistance. Morgan saw the contagion of his example; and, if tradition may be trusted, pointed him out to three of his unerring riflemen as a proper object for their aim. When he fell, mortally wounded, the tide of battle turned. Not even Burgoyne, who also exposed himself wherever his presence seemed needed, could save the day. Shot through the hat and waistcoat, he narrowly escaped a fate like Fraser's, and only returned to his camp when driven back with his troops. His principal aid, Sir Francis Clerke, was mortally wounded, and died next day a prisoner in Gates's tent. Lieutenant-Colonel Breyman, commanding the Germans on the right, was also killed. Eight of the guns brought into the field were lost.
This signal defeat of the enemy on the 7th was decisive. Gates was now more than twice as strong as his antagonist. Conscious of the danger of his situation, Burgoyne, on the night of the 8th, abandoning everything not immediately needed, quietly retreated to Saratoga, and encamped on the north side of the Fishkill. On the morning of this day, General Lincoln, while reconnoitering the enemy's position, received a severe wound. In the evening, Fraser was buried with military honors in a redoubt near the Hudson. Burgoyne, Phillips, and other general officers, with their staffs, were present at these last services over the grave of their comrade, where the requiem was the fire of American cannon aimed at a group easily distinguished by the artillerymen, but who were unconscious of the purpose of that sad and solemn gathering. The wives of several officers accompanied Burgoyne's expedition, notably those of General Riedesel and Major Ackland, and suffered all the hardships of the campaign. Madam Riedesel, in her Memoirs, describes the burial of Fraser under fire of the American artillery.
Gates followed the enemy, making such disposition of his troops as to surround them. General Fellows, with Massachusetts militia, severed their line of retreat by holding the crossing of the Hudson. Morgan, Poor, and Learned threatened their rear on the west. Nixon, Patterson, and Glover remained in their front, and, in attempting to advance beyond the Fishkill on the 10th, narrowly escaped collision with the entire British force, which had not yet, as supposed, left its position. On the 12th Burgoyne had but five days' rations in camp, and on the 13th his desperate situation compelled him to summon a council, and propose the question of capitulation.
His officers unanimously declared that in consideration of all that the army bad already suffered, and its present critical position, proposals for surrender could be made without dishonor, and a flag was accordingly sent to the American commander. "On the 12th frequent carmonading and skirmishing; commanding officers of regiments were sent for by General Burgoyne, to know what a face their, regiments bore. The answer of the British, they would fight to a man. The German officers returned to their regiments to know the disposition of their men; they answered: 'Nix the money, nix the rum, nix flghten.' The British regiments being reduced in number to about nineteen hundred, and having no dependence on the Germans, General Burgoyne, on the 13th October, opened a treaty with Major-Genl. Gates." - Pell's Diary.
On the 17th, after the negotiation was once on the point of being broken off, - Burgoyne receiving information which led him to hope for reinforcements from the south, - the articles of capitulation, or "Conventions," as they were officially designated, were signed by Gates and Burgoyne. It was agreed that the British army should march out with all the honors of war, and have free passage to England, upon condition of not serving again during the war. Five thousand seven hundred and sixty-three officers and men were included in the surrender. On the forenoon of the 17th, they marched out from their camps, and laid down their arms in a field near Old Fort Hardy, in the presence only of Majors Wilkinson and Lewis of General Gates's staff. Burgoyne presented himself to Gates, with the remark that the fortune of war had made him his prisoner; and for several days after the English officers were received and treated with every mark of consideration due to worthy foes.
The surrender of Burgoyne's army on the 17th of October was, up to this time, the most important event of the war; and the battles of September 19th and October 7th are counted among the decisive battles of the world. The whole country was jubilant, not only that so much had been gained where so little had been hoped for, but that in that gain they saw the promise of greater things to come. In England the tidings of disaster and defeat were received with bitter disappointment, and reproaches were heaped upon the General for the failure of a campaign in the plan of which the King and his minister had blundered. Congress presented to Gates a medal for completing the work which others had begun and made possible if not inevitable; but the people did not forget to be grateful to the brave officers and men who in battle after battle bad wrested victory from as brave an army as England could send to the field.
ALLIANCE WITH FRANCE. -PROPOSALS FOR PEACE REJECTED-THE WINTER AT VALLEY FORGE. - THE CONWAY CABAL. - BARON VON STEUBEN. -ALLIANCE WITH FRANCE. - NORTH'S PROPOSITIONS FOR PEACE. - LAFAYETTE AT BARREN HILL. -EVACUATION OF PHILADELPHIA- BATTLE OF MONMOUTH - .LEE'S CONDUCT. - TRIED BY COURT-MARTIAL. - THE RHODE ISLAND CAMPAIGN. -ARRIVAL OF A FRENCH FLEET WITH TROOPS.- THE TORY AND INDIAN WARFARE IN CENTRAL NEW YORK. -THE PIONEERS OF TENNESSEE AND KENTUCKY. -COLONEL CLARK'S EXPEDITION TO ILLINOIS.- OPERATIONS BEGUN AT THE SOUTH. - LOSS OF SAVANNAH, - PARTISAN WARFARE. - NAVAL AFFAIRS. - FIGHT BETWEEN THE " BON HOMME RICHARD" AND THE " SERAPIS."
The camp at Valley Forge was laid out in parallel streets of log huts, built by the soldiers with timber found in abundance in the neighboring woods. Each brigade was encamped by itself; the quarters of the officers were opposite their respective regiments and companies; in each but -measuring fourteen by sixteen feet - were lodged twelve privates. The headquarters of the Commander-in-chief were at the house of Isaac Potts, the proprietor of the forge which gave a name to the locality, and near by were those of Greene, Steuben, Lafayette, and other officers of rank, small barracks," wrote Lafayette to his wife, "which are scarcely more cheerful than dungeons." The camp was protected by forts and entrenchments; in advance of the lines Morgan and his riflemen were stationed, and more distant points were guarded by outposts of dragoons and militia. General Washington keeps his station at Valley Forge. I was there when the army first began to build huts. They appeared to me like a family of beavers, every one busy, some carrying logs, others mud, and the rest plastering them together. The whole was raised in a few days, and it is a curious collection of buildings in the true rustic order." -Letters from Thomas Paine to Dr. Franklin. Penn. Mag. of Hist., vol. ii.
The army was well sheltered, for a log house is a comfortable dwelling, and the woods near by afforded plenty of fuel. But in everything else there was absolute impoverishment. Had food been abundant in the surrounding country, there were no horses and wagons to draw it to camp ; even had there been no lack of these, the roads were almost impassable for any beast of burden or any carriage. Provisions of all kinds were scarce and poor, and what there were the men themselves were compelled to transport, "who, without a murmur," a Congressional Commission reported, "patiently yoke themselves to little carriages of their own making, or load their wood and provisions on their backs." They would have been cheerful as well as patient had they been in a condition for such work, for work in itself is no hardship. But they were weak from the want of sufficient and proper food; they went to their labor in thin and tattered clothing and with uncovered feet; and when they sought for rest and vigor in sleep, it was on the bare earth that made the floors of their huts, --for they were without even loose straw for their beds. This last necessity Washington endeavored to relieve, and at the same time to secure provisions, by issuing an order to farmers within seventy miles to thrash out all the grain in their barns and deliver the straw in camp before the 1st of March, under the penalty of having "all that shall remain in sheaves after the period above mentioned seized by the commissaries and quartermasters of the army and paid for as straw." By the 1st of February the want of clothing was so absolute that about four thousand men in their huts were necessarily relieved from duty on this account. From destitution came sickness, and the death-rate increased thirty-three per cent, from week to week. "Nothing," said the report addressed to the President of Congress, referred to already, "Nothing, sir, can equal their sufferings, except the patience and fortitude with which the faithful part of the army endure them." There were, however, the unfaithful also, whose patriotism was not proof against hunger and cold and pestilence, and they deserted in large numbers. In February there were in camp only about five thousand effective men.
Congress was at York, Pennsylvania. If it was not powerless to relieve the poverty which was so sorely trying the army, then it was indifferent to the welfare of the men on whom the safety of the country so largely depended. Both propositions, probably, were, in a measure, true. Washington was authorized to take supplies wherever he could find them within seventy miles, for which be was to pay in money, if he had it, if not, in certificates. But Congress failed to provide for the redemption of these certificates, even in the depreciated paper money, which, poor as it was, at least, was a little better than nothing at all. There was then, as there is now, a considerable portion of the rural population of Pennsylvania slow to understand, and slower still to accept, new ideas, and reconcile themselves to new relations. These were either still loyal to the King, or, if favorably disposed to the new government, their devotion was moderate and not animated with any very deep sense of the spirit of self-sacrifice. In Philadelphia, where the British army passed the winter in gayety and almost riotous plenty, the farmers, if they could get there, were paid in gold for their produce. The ardent patriotism that would lead them to Valley Forge instead, to receive, in place of gold, certificates that were absolutely worthless, was a patriotism not in daily use.
Before the winter was over, it was a question whether the army would break up in mutiny or be dissolved for want of the necessaries of life. The burden of anxiety and responsibility was heavy upon the Commander-in-chief, and perhaps for that reason his enemies thought it a good opportunity to bring about his overthrow. The success of the northern campaign had added greatly to Gates's reputation. Easy as it is to see now, at the distance of a hundred years, that the laurels which he gathered should have been bound upon the brows of others, the credit be had acquired stimulated his own ambition and made him the central figure in the opposition to Washington, both in Congress and in the army. He was made in the autumn President of the Board of War; Mifflin was one of its members; Conway -by birth an Irishman, but by adoption a Frenchman, a colonel in the French army, and one of the officers whom Silas Deane had sent to America -was made a Major-General over the heads of his seniors in commission, and was appointed Inspector-General. He was at the head of a secret movement by which it was intended to remove Washington and put Gates in his place.
This was, as it has ever since been called, the "Conway Cabal," and Conway spent the winter at York intriguing with Mifflin, Lee, -who had been exchanged-and some members of Congress, to bring about the removal of Washington. An intrigue of this sort could not long remain a secret, for it was necessary to its success that various influences should be brought to favor it. The correspondence between Gates, Mifflin, and Conway, reflecting upon Washington, became known through the indiscretion of Wilkinson, who had seen one of the letters and repeated its purport to Stirling. The unfavorable impression produced by this discovery was not removed when Gates, with some bluster, first demanded of Washington to know who had tampered with his letters, and then denied that Conway had written the letter whose words had been quoted. It was hoped to secure the alliance of Lafayette by offering him the command of a new invasion of Canada, which came to nothing; he would only accept it on condition that he should report to Washington as Commander-in-chief. Anonymous letters to Patrick Henry, Governor of Virginia, and to Henry Laurens, President of Congress, were at once forwarded by those gentlemen to Washington himself. Attempts to influence State legislatures proved equally abortive, and when the purpose of the "Cabal " became known to the country and to the army, it met with universal condemnation. Captain Selden, of Connecticut, writing from Valley Forge, in the spring, undoubtedly reflected the feeling of the army. He says: -I am content if they remove almost any General except his Excellency. The country, even Congress, are not aware of the Confidence the Army Places in him, or motions never would have been made for Gates to take the Command." - Manuscript Letter. The scheme was not only completely frustrated, but its principal instigators either repented of their share in it, or were deprived of the power of attempting further mischief. Gates and Mifflin both ceased soon after to be members of the Board of War. Gates was ordered in the spring to take charge of the fortifications on the Hudson. Mifflin was brought to trial for mismanagement in the affairs of the quartermaster's department, in which, however, nothing was proved against him but incapacity and confusion in the accounts. He resigned his commission as Major-General, but acquired some distinction afterward as a member of Congress. The next campaign brought Lee before a court-martial. Conway, who was also sent in March to the Northern Department, offered his resignation to Congress, which, contrary to his expectation and wishes, was accepted. Not long afterward he was shot in a duel by General Cadwallader, who accused him of cowardice at the battle of Brandywine. Supposing himself fatally wounded, he wrote a contrite letter to Washington, and on his recovery returned to France.
But notwithstanding the hardships and threatened disasters of the winter at Valley Forge, there came to the army in that encampment one signal advantage which told in all the future military operations of the war. This was the arrival of Frederick William von Steuben, a veteran Prussian General, who had learned the art of war under the great Frederick, and whose experienced eye saw beneath the tattered clothing and worn frames of the men the material for excellent soldiers. He proposed to introduce the Prussian system of minor tactics, and, beginning on a small scale, he gradually brought the whole army to an admirable condition of drill and discipline. For details of the special services and their importance to the Revolutionary War, see Life of Steuben, by Frederick Kapp; and The German Element in the War of Independence, by G. W. Greene. Congress appointed him to the office of Inspector-General, and adopted the regulations he had drawn up for the American service - regulations which were rather an adaptation of the Prussian system to the character of the men before him, and the needs of the army, than a rigid adherence to its tactics.
The soldiers were quick enough to see that this new Inspector-General, unlike the man for whom the office was created --Conway -put his heart into his work, and was moved by no personal ambition, but by a deep interest in the struggle for which they were suffering so much, and a sincere desire to fit them to achieve success. His very roughness of manner and quickness of temper were to them an evidence of his sincerity. The grim Prussian veteran appealed irresistibly, without perceiving it, to the sensitive American humor when, having exhausted his vocabulary of German oaths upon an awkward squad at drill, he would cry out to his aid, Come and swear for me in English; these fellows will not do what I bid them! " When in after battlefields these men maneuvered with the precision and coolness of a grand parade, simply because they knew they were parts of a great machine, whose effectiveness depended upon the method of its movement, and the adaptation of the parts to the whole, - then they remembered and blessed the Baron von Steuben, and the way he hammered tactics into them with his big, strange oaths. In other respects his military knowledge was of immense value in various ways, and of all the European officers who sought service under the new Republic, he did more than any other in aid of its complete establishment.
The effect in Europe of Burgoyne's surrender was not long in manifesting itself. It gave strength to the opposition in England, which was shown at the opening of the next session of Parliament but far more important than this, it decided the policy of France. It was easy, under the new aspect which the annihilation of one army in the North, and the vigorous campaign of Washington at the South, gave to the war, for the French Minister and the American Commissioners in Paris to come to terms. On the 6th of February a treaty was concluded, providing that if war should break out between France and England, during the existence of that with the United States, it should be made a common cause; that neither of the contracting parties should conclude either truce or peace with Great Britain without the formal consent of the other first obtained; and they agreed not to lay down their arms until the independence of the United States should have been formally or tacitly assured by the treaties that should terminate the war. The news of this important step reached the United States in April; on the 2d of May the treaty was ratified by Congress; and nowhere were the tidings received with more satisfaction than at Valley Forge, where a day was set apart for public rejoicing with all the demonstrations that an impoverished military camp could afford. M. Capellan, the patriotic Hollander, who made a speech in the popular House of the Dutch government, against loaning troops to England in 1775-76, wrote this letter -hitherto unpublished - to Franklin on the conclusion of the French alliance:- Zwolle, 28 April, I 178. Sir : As I have been the first, or say better, the only one of all the members of our State who has dared himself to declare openly for ye American Cause, and that in a problematical time, Congratulate you out of the bottom of my heart of the happy success with which providence has crowned America.
"The joy I fold on the news of the taking the army of General Burgoyne, which will shine in the annalls of America and its Liberty, surpassed with a greater joy which occasioned the Treaty concluded with France, and by which the U. S. of America see themselfs placed amongst the Independent Powers in the world." -MS. in Trumbull Papers, in the possession of the Massachusetts Historical Society.
The impending event in Paris was no secret in England. The opposition in Parliament sought to open negotiations with the American Commissioners to avert the French alliance, but this came to nothing. Lord North, knowing that, if a treaty were made, war between France and England was sure to follow, was reduced to a humiliating position without being certain that even humiliation would keep him in office. In February he brought into Parliament two conciliatory bills, which were passed in March. The plan proposed yielded all that England had been contending against -the right to tax the colonies - and Congress was recognized as a legal representative body, by the appointment of Commissioners to treat with it. But that which the insurgents contended for was not conceded -their right to be entirely independent of the British Crown. The scheme was sure to come to the ground, - would have come to the ground, even bad there been no alliance with France, - but it was North's best as it was his last card.
A part of the opposition, had they had the power, would have conceded independence to the revolted colonies. Others would, if they could, have come to some compromise, not essentially differing from that proposed by North, but which would have left the question of independence in abeyance, to be settled afterward when peace was once restored. There was faith enough in such a policy - futile as it would have proved - to have overthrown North, and restored Chatham to office, bad it not been for the obstinacy of the King. He hated Chatham with the intensity that belongs to unsettled reason, and refused to admit him to his presence. "I solemnly declare," he said, "that nothing shall bring me to treat personally with Lord Chatham." There still lurked in his clouded mind the belief that the colonies could yet be subdued. Chatham, he said, would insist on a total change.
But Chatham's plan, it is known, involved the idea that the States could still be retained as English colonies. He would have rescinded all obnoxious laws, withdrawn all the troops front America, leaving garrisons only in a few strongly fortified places, and concentrated all the strength of England upon a struggle with France. When that was ended - and no Englishman could permit himself to doubt what the end would be -he would trust to the common ties of race, of language, of religion, and of interest, to bring back the Americans to their allegiance. "The moment," said Shelburne - who thoroughly understood Chatham's views - "that the independence of America is agreed to by our Government, the sun of Great Britain is set, and we shall no longer be a powerful or respectable people." Fitzmaurice's Life of the Earl of Shelburne.
North's scheme of reconciliation was, after all, no more impracticable than those devised by rival statesmen. Chatham's plan, whatever it was, he could not have carried out, had he again come into power, for he died on the 11th of May. When he fell in the House of Lords a month before, stricken unto death, he was about to reply to the Duke of Richmond, who had moved a resolution for an address to the Crown, asking the King to withdraw his fleets and armies from the revolted provinces, and "to effectuate conciliation with them on such terms as might preserve their good will," - by which the duke meant that their independence should be acknowledged. The resolution was lost by a majority of only seventeen, notwithstanding the dying words of the great statesman were against it.
The Commissioners, with Lord North's proposals for peace, arrived in June. Their credentials were immediately presented to Congress, who received them on one day, and gave on the next an answer, curt, conclusive, and almost defiant. Nothing, they said, but "an earnest desire to spare the effusion of human blood, would have induced them to read a letter that so reflected upon their ally, the King of France; that they were ready, however, to enter upon the consideration of peace whenever the King of Great Britain should show that he had any "sincere disposition for that purpose; " and that the only evidence of that sincerity would be "an explicit acknowledgment of the independence of these States, or the withdrawing his fleets and armies."
It was near midsummer before this point in the history of the year was reached. Arms had rather waited upon diplomacy. For though through the spring there were some military movements, there were none of much moment. When made, they were less to gather glory, and more to gather corn and cattle. Two such expeditions were made into New Jersey in March, and twice, near Salem, at Quinton's Bridge and at Hancock's Bridge, the militia were called out to resist such raids upon their fields and barn-yards. A like attempt at plunder was made at Montgomery, in Pennsylvania, on the 1st of May. To check these incursions, and, at the same time, to have a force near by in case Philadelphia should be abandoned of which already there was some expectation - Washington ordered Lafayette, with about two thousand men, to take a position at Barren Hill, half way between Valley Forge and the city. This movement Howe determined to defeat, and he sent out Grant with five thousand men to surround and capture this force under Lafayette. When apprised of his danger, Lafayette made a feint of at attacking Grant, and then by a rapid march crossed the Schuylkill at Matson's Ford before he could be intercepted. The affair ended with little loss on either side, and at the time was considered a brilliant piece of maneuvering on the part of Lafayette. To the enemy it was a source of chagrin and disappointment.
The British had occupied Philadelphia for more than eight months with a force superior to Washington's, but had failed to establish themselves in the State at large. With the Peace Commissioners came orders to return to New York. The concentration of their forces had become of greater importance than the occupation of territory. On the 18th of June the movement was begun, hastened, doubtless, by a report that a French fleet under D'Estaing was on its way to blockade the English in the Delaware. Between the hours of three and ten o'clock A. M., the entire army had been ferried across the river, and immediately took the march northward through the Jerseys. All told, it numbered about fourteen thousand effective men, under Sir Henry Clinton, Howe having been relieved of his command, with a baggage and provision train eight or ten miles long, which included officers' luggage, and plunder from Philadelphia in carriages, saddle-horses, servants, women, and every kind of other useless stuff." The heat was oppressive, rains had made the roads difficult of travel, and the way before them was long. During this tedious march, between six hundred and eight hundred Hessians deserted in safety.
The moment Washington was positively informed of Clinton's start, he broke camp at Valley Forge and followed in pursuit. Maxwell's brigade was pushed forward to join Dickinson's militia, to aid in the destruction of bridges, and delay the enemy. On the 21st, the American army crossed the Delaware at Coryell's Ferry, the present Lambertville ; on the 26th, reached Kingston, twenty miles west of Freehold; and on the 28th it struck the rear of Clinton's columns, and the battle of Monmouth Courthouse followed. Clinton's first intention was to march to Amboy; but hearing at Allentown that Washington was nearing him, and might dispute the passage of the Raritan, he turned eastward to Sandy Hook, via Freehold or Monmouth. - Clinton's Report.
A council of war, held at Hopewell on the 24th, expressed a divided opinion as to the advisability of bringing on a general engagement with Clinton. Six generals, including Lee, advised that the enemy should be followed up and harassed by separate and cautious attacks, at various points, upon the retreating columns. Six of the generals, among whom were Greene and Lafayette, proposed more vigorous measures. Washington himself was clearly unwilling to permit the enemy to cross New Jersey without receiving an effective blow. As he approached Clinton, strong, select, and ably-led detachments were sent in advance of the main army. In the van was a corps about five thousand strong, exclusive of Dickinson's militia on the left, and Morgan's riflemen, who were ordered to threaten the enemy's right flank. The command of this force was given first to Lafayette, but finally to Lee, as he claimed it on the ground of rank.
A little after noon on the 27th, Inspector-General Steuben reconnoitered the enemy in person, and reported that they lay encamped on the main road by Monmouth Courthouse, in a strong position. Washington instructed Lee, in case Clinton resumed his march the next morning, to attack him at once. The distance between the two armies on the night of the 27th was only five miles, the American advance corps being at the little village of Englishtown, west of Monmouth. Although requested by the Commander-in-chief to unite upon some plan of action with the generals in his command, Lee failed to name anything definite, preferring, he said, to be governed by circumstances. During the night, several hundred men were moved to points nearer the enemy.
At five o'clock on the morning of the 28th, word came to headquarters that the enemy were moving. Knyphausen marched with the baggage train and its strong convoy, while Clinton, with his best troops, followed about eight o'clock. Washington sent word to Lee to hasten in pursuit and bring on an engagement, unless some urgent reason to the contrary existed. The main army, leaving its packs, moved forward to support the advance corps.
General Dickinson's militia first engaged the enemy, between seven and eight o'clock in the morning, and, supposing himself to have encountered the advance of the returning British, when in fact it was merely a small flanking party, he sent for aid, while holding his ground, and the British presently fell back. At this time conflicting reports were brought to General Lee, some of the scouts thinking that the enemy were, and others that they were not, returning in force. Hence there was much marching and countermarching, and it was not until after nine o'clock that it was certainly known that the British were continuing their march toward Middletown. In this uncertainty, the opportunity for striking the left flank, according to Washington's plan, was lost.
The second skirmish took place between Colonel Butler and a small party of the enemy's horse, which was quickly driven through the village, Colonel Butler following with artillery and occupying a slight eminence while the other brigades came up. Here the British light dragoons charged vigorously, but were repulsed by Colonel Butler.
Up to this point the advantage was on the side of the Americans. The several regiments were well posted, in spite of the absence of any general leadership in the morning's movements, and a determined advance would have taken Knypbausen's column at great disadvantage. At this stage of the conflict, Lee sent orders to Wayne to move to the right, and capture the enemy's rearguard. The other commanders, who were without orders, understood this movement to be a retreat, as they saw that the enemy was moving and apparently threatening their connection with Wayne. They abandoned their positions, and had fallen back some distance when, too late, orders came from Lee to stand fast. By this time the entire division was in retreat. By half-past eleven, the British had discovered the confusion attending these various movements, and had turned back in considerable force. Lee watched the retreat of his detachments across a ravine, remained to see the last of his men safely over, and then followed them, to find that Washington had come up with the main army and assumed command in person.
The change of command was instantly felt among the troops who were retreating, and many of them at once rallied and formed a line. The regiments of Colonels Stewart, of Pennsylvania, and Ramsay, of Maryland, which were nearest at hand, Washington posted on the left of the road, with two guns, saying, "Gentlemen, I depend upon you to hold the ground until I can form the main army." On the right of the road he placed Wayne, Varnurn, Oswald, and Livingston. The other retreating regiments, broken, but by no means panic-stricken, passed through the new line to re-form, many of them, however, voluntarily joining the troops already in position.
With the last of the retreating force came Lee, and that remarkable interview with Washington followed, in which he showed that sublime wrath " to which he sometimes gave way, and which was not incompatible with his equally sublime patience and usual self command. As Lee approached him, he instantly expressed his astonishment at the unaccountable retreat. "I wish to know,. Sir," he exclaimed, "what is the reason - why this disorder and confusion ? " This, substantially, is the version of the famous meeting, as Lee gave it himself in his written defense before the court-martial which tried him for disobedience. The proceedings of the court, and the testimony of officers, out of which alone can a correct account of the battle be unraveled, have been published in different forms, and most recently in the Lee Papers, published by the New York Historical Society. Overawed by Washington's manner and stinging rebuke, Lee could only reply that he saw no other confusion than might naturally arise from disobedience of orders." Washington may have understood, even then, that the confusion was not from disobedience of orders, but from the want of them, and that Lee was throwing upon others the responsibility for disaster which was the result of his own incapacity or treachery. The tradition is, that the commanding General was so moved that ordinary language did not suffice to express the depths of his indignation, and that he cursed Lee with emphasis and heartiness. Whether he did or did not sometimes lapse, when angry, into a manner of speech more common in that century than in this, is a question that can never be settled now by any positive evidence. He had more than one human weakness, great and good man as he was, and it is not at all improbable that swearing, under great provocation, was one of them. But when the storm, on this occasion, had blown over, Lee offered to bring the troops into some order in the front, and finally, being greatly fatigued, took command of the various bodies that had made their way to the rear. This was the end of his military career, as he was soon after brought to trial before a court-martial, found guilty of disobedience to orders, misbehavior before the enemy, and disrespect to the Commander-in-chief, in two letters written after the battle, and sentenced to suspension from command for a year.
Colonels Ramsay and Stewart soon felt the British advance, and their resistance brought on the general engagement of the day. Both stood firm until compelled to fall back before superior numbers. Ramsay held his ground desperately, and refused to yield, until he was wounded and taken prisoner. While his men were on the retreat he [Ramsay] was attacked by one of the enemy's dragoons, who charged him very briskly. The Colonel was on foot. It was for sometime between them a trial of skill and courage. After the horseman fired his pistol, the Colonel closed in, and wounded and dismounted him. Several dragoons now came up to support their comrade; the Colonel engaged them cominus ense, giving and receiving very serious wounds, till at length, attacked in his rear, and overpowered by numbers, he was made prisoner. General Clinton paid a proper attention to such uncommon prowess, and generously liberated the Colonel the following day on his patrol." - Revolutionary Letter, Mag. of Am. Hist., June, 1879. Lafayette formed a second line just in time to prevent Clinton with his main body from outflanking the position on both sides. The sharpest fighting took place near the road where Washington first checked the retreat. Here Lieutenant-Colonel Monckton, of the Royal Grenadiers, was killed, and his body remained in the hands of the Americans. Firing continued until five o'clock in the afternoon, when the British, failing to make any impression, fell back. The losses of the two armies were nearly equal. Clinton reported 355, and Washington 362, killed, wounded, and missing; but on the side of the Americans there were many stragglers who had been overcome with the heat, and afterward reported to their respective regiments.
Clinton continued his march to New York without further molestation, Washington following and taking his position at White Plains, to be in readiness for future movements. All eyes were soon directed towards Rhode Island, where, late in July, the Count D'Estaing arrived with a squadron of twelve ships, carrying four thousand French troops. This fleet was intended to relieve Philadelphia, but did not reach the Delaware till after that city was evacuated. There was not depth enough of water, D'Estaing believed, to admit the ships into New York harbor, and he therefore passed on to Newport. At his approach, twenty-one English vessels, large and small, were burned to avoid capture.
Large hopes and eager curiosity waited -upon this appearance of a French fleet with a French army as the first fruit of the new alliance. The disappointment was great that D'Estaing could not find his way into New York bay, capture or destroy the smaller English fleet there, and blockade Clinton in his principal stronghold. It was thought that something else was wanting besides depth of water on the bar at the mouth of the harbor; but this was soon forgotten, when the English burnt their vessels at Newport, and the reduction of that place, which General Pigot held with six thousand British and Hessians, seemed a certain and speedy event. Sullivan was in command of ten thousand men - militia and Continentals - in Rhode Island, with Greene and Lafayette as division commanders, Varnum and Glover as brigadier-generals. In Varnum's brigade was a Negro regiment, organized with Washington's approval, composed of slaves emancipated on condition of enlisting..
The French and American armies were to cooperate in an attack upon Newport, to be made on the 10th of August. Sullivan, to take advantage of the abandonment of the north end of the island by the enemy, moved before the time agreed upon. He neglected to notify D'Estaing of his change of purpose, and out of this misunderstanding came delay which, in the end, defeated the enterprise. When, on the 9th, the French were ready to cooperate, a fleet of thirty-six vessels, under Lord Howe, from New York, appeared in the Offing. D'Estaing re-embarked his men, gathered his ships together, and put to sea. A northeast wind gave him the weather-gage of the Englishmen, who declined battle. A furious storm followed, which scattered both fleets. For ten days they were at sea, when Howe returned to New York, and D'Estaing to New port, his ships so shattered by the storm that he determined to take his fleet to Boston to refit.
Sullivan had pushed on, notwithstanding the absence of the French troops. He had compelled the enemy to withdraw within their lines of entrenchments stretching from Newport harbor to Eaton's Pond, and covered his own men by earthwork waiting for D'Estaing's return. That the fleet needed to refit, there could be no doubt; the orders of the government were that in such an emergency D'Estaing should go to Boston, and that was the best port for his purpose. The public disappointment, nevertheless, was keen and bitter. It was easy to understand that sails and rigging might need to be replaced; that hulls and spars must be repaired; that water-butts should be refilled, and the stock of provisions be replenished. It was not easy to understand why four thousand soldiers should remain on board to watch the progress of this refitting. There was a prevalent feeling that these troops might have been left on Rhode Island to do a little fighting, and that the ship-carpenters, stevedores, calkers, and riggers in Boston would have done quite as well without their presence. But D'Estaing gave little heed to such reasoning as this. He seemed to think that his ships and his soldiers were not to be separated; that together they formed an expedition which would be broken up if either acted independently of the other. The Frenchman was very polite but very persistent, and went to Boston --ships, sailors, and soldiers. The American general was more frank than polite, when he said in General Orders, that America might "be able to procure that by her own arms which her allies refuse to assist in obtaining." The popular feeling was on his side; Frenchmen were not always safe in the streets of Boston while the ships lay in that harbor, and one officer was killed in a brawl. Congress and the Commander-in-chief did all that could be done to soothe the wounded feelings of the French officers, that there should be no disturbance of the cordiality between the two governments.
Sullivan determined to attack on the 29th. lf anything was to be done, it must be clone quickly, for the volunteers, doubtful of success without the assistance of the French, were returning to their homes in large numbers. The roads leading to the town, and the hills near it, known as Quaker, Turkey, and Butt's, were taken possession of by the Americans. The British advanced from their works, and attacked at several points with great vigor, but were repulsed with equal steadiness. The fighting was desperate for several hours, though of Sullivan's five thousand men only fifteen hundred had ever before seen the smoke of battle. None behaved better than the raw troops of Greene's colored regiment, who three times repulsed the furious charges of veteran Hessians. The Americans were driven, at length, from some of their positions, but their loss in killed, wounded, and missing was only a few more than two hundred, while that of the other side was over a thousand. Arnold's History of Rhode island.
A dispatch from Washington the next day warned Sullivan that Pigot was about to be reinforced by Clinton with five thousand men. To risk a battle and attempt to hold the open country against superior numbers would have been little else than madness. A retreat was begun, and in the course of the night the whole army crossed to the mainland at Tiverton in safety. It was just in time; the reinforcements, on board a hundred English vessels, were in Newport harbor the next morning. As Sullivan had escaped, Clinton reconciled himself to that disappointment by burning New Bedford and Fairhaven, and all the vessels at their wharves. Howe sailed for Boston, and challenged D'Estaing to battle, who was not yet ready for sea. When his fleet was refitted, he sailed for the West India station, without any further attempt then to aid the Americans. In other parts of the country there were, in the course of the summer and autumn, military movements having no immediate connection with those along the coast, but which were nevertheless of great interest to those immediately concerned, and sometimes of general importance. Through all the West the Indians were instigated to hostility, -in New York by Sir John Johnson and other leading Tories, and in more distant regions by the English governors at Niagara and Detroit. The battle of Oriskany, the year before, where more than a hundred warriors had been sped on their way to the happy bunting-grounds had aroused in several tribes of the Six Nations a thirst for vengeance not easily satisfied. Joseph Brant was the most powerful of all their chiefs, and education among the whites, in failing to change his savage nature, had given him the added power of a cultivated mind. His relations to the Johnson family -Brant's sister having been the mother of several of Sir William John son's children - attached him to the Tory interest, and to that interest, stronger in Central New York than in any other part of the country, he was a formidable ally. His name was a terror among the Whig population, for wherever he appeared, death and devastation were sure to follow. From July to November, from the valley of the Susquehanna northward through the country west of Albany, then called Tryon County, a merciless warfare was carried on by the Tories and Indians, in which the Tories were sometimes even more savage than their savage allies. Whole settlements were given to the flames, and as little mercy was shown to old women, and to infants in the cradle, as to men with arms in their bands. At Wyoming--
" On Susquehanna's side, fair Wyoming!"
on the last days of June, two of the forts were taken, and many of the inhabitants of the valley compelled to fly for refuge to a third, called Forty Fort." The garrison was under the command of Colonel Zebulon Butler, who, overruled by rash counsel, led his men to battle against a superior force of Tories and Indians under Colonel John Butler. The result was a disastrous defeat, in which only about sixty of the three hundred American soldiers escaped. As the news spread through the valley, those who had not already left their homes fled to the woods and mountains, or sought safety in Fort Wyoming. This, in a day or two, was weakly surrendered by Colonel Dennison, with a stipulation that the settlers should be permitted to return to their farms and be unmolested., The stipulation was disregarded in the destruction of property, and many persons were killed, though it is questionable whether a general massacre followed. Nor is it certain that Brant was engaged on this expedition. Stone, in his Life of Brant, denies it. Dr. Thacher, in his Military Journal, gives some stories current at the time, which are almost incredible. See also Moore's Diary of the American Revolution, for contemporary rumors. Weld, in his Travels through the States Of North America during the Years 1795, 1796, 1797, visited Wyoming -then Wilkesbarre -and says: "It was here the dreadful massacre was committed . . . . . Several of the houses in which the unfortunate victims retired to defend themselves, on being refused all quarter, are still standing, perforated in every part with balls; the remains of others that were set on fire also to be seen, and the inhabitants will on no account suffer them to be repaired."
In others, however, he was the chief actor. He had, a few days before, entered the settlement of Springfield, on Otsego Lake, and burnt every house excepting one, in which he had placed the women and children in safety. Indian scouts and scalping parties roamed through the summer along the banks of the Schoharie. Late in August or early in September, Brant, with a large body of followers, laid waste the settlements on German Flats, in the valley of the Mohawk, leaving for ten miles not a house, a barn, or a stack of grain of the lately gathered harvest, standing, and driving off all the cattle. This act, however, was fully avenged a few days later in the destruction of the Indian towns of Unadilla and Oghkwaga by Colonel William Butler, with a Pennsylvania regiment and a detachment of Morgan's riflemen, who bad been sent for the protection of the harassed people.
More pitiful than all was the fate that befell Cherry Valley early in November. Walter N. Butler, a son of the Tory Colonel John Butler, who had been a prisoner at Albany, had recently escaped, and, as a signal act of vengeance, he determined to destroy a village noted for the refinement and virtue of its inhabitants, as well as for their devotion to the revolutionary cause. Lafayette, when at Albany, the year before, to prepare for that abortive expedition against Canada which he was to lead, had ordered that a fort be built at Cherry Valley, the command of which was given to Colonel Ichabod Alden, who knew nothing of the Indian ways. He had warning of the approach of Butler and Brant, but took no precautions. He assured the villagers that there was no reason for apprehension, and they remained in their houses till they were startled by the savage war-cry. Alden himself was outside the fort, and was pursued by an Indian as he ran with all his speed to get within the gates. He turned and snapped his pistol, as he ran, again and again at his pursuer, who, before the fort was reached, came near enough to bury his tomahawk in the head of the unfortunate Colonel. Nearly fifty persons were killed in the course of the day, and all but sixteen of these were women and children. There were cases of peculiar atrocity, even for Indian warfare; the savage Butler or the savage Brant, either by choice or chance, marked the massacre to be remembered by the murder of women venerable in character and years. The fort was not taken, but most of the buildings in the village were burned. The only mercy shown was to release most of the women and children taken prisoners; Mrs. Campbell and Mrs. Moore, with their children, being still detained because their husbands were leading Whigs. The motive of Butler's clemency, - the motive of the attack on the village, -it may be, was the fact that his mother and several of her children were prisoners at Albany, and these taken at Cherry Valley were offered in exchange. Stone's Life of Brant. Campbell's Central New York in the Revolution
But this Indian warfare was not confined to Central New York. Though the war so absorbed the resources, the interest, and the energies of the people between the mountains and the sea, in the western valleys the pioneer of civilization was fighting his way into the wilderness, not much concerned about the higher contest that was going on behind him. In 17705 Daniel Boone had made his first "blazed trace" in the wilderness west of Virginia, soon to be known as Kentucky ; the territory of the present State of Tennessee was organized in 1776 as the County of Washington in North Carolina; Ohio was known as the District of West Augusta; in 1777 Kentucky had three military stations, Boonesborough, Logan's Fort, and Harrod's Station, on the "dark and bloody ground," the common bunting-fields of the northern and southern Indians; Boone, Logan, Harrod, Kenton, Patterson, Galloway, Montgomery, and many others, were names known and dreaded by the Indian tribes, as they penetrated through all this unbroken wilderness, - men who have left behind them memories of mighty hunters and of mighty fighters, whose lives were filled with romantic adventure, with deeds of daring and endurance, which have no parallel in the history of the settlement of any other part of the continent.
For, it was not merely that these pioneers encountered the jealousy and fears of natives dreading the encroachment of the white men upon their lands. To that natural dread the war lent a new and intense incitement. The commanders of the English posts at the west and northwest were diligent in arousing the hostility of the tribes to the Americans, and many an Indian expedition was instigated at Detroit, at Vincennes, and at Kaskaskia, on the river of that name, two miles from the left bank of the Mississippi. Colonel George Rogers Clark, one of the hardy and brave pioneers of Kentucky, determined to strike at the source of this evil and on making known his bold plan to Governor Patrick Henry, received his approbation and aid. To his success it was due, that in the negotiations for peace between the powers in 1782, the Mississippi River, and not the Allegbany range, was made the western boundary of the United States.
In May, 1778, Clark went down the Ohio with only a hundred and fifty men. At Corn Island, at the Falls of the Ohio, he remained a few days to receive additions to his company, and to build a blockhouse as a depot of provisions. Here he left five men, who, after he had gone, removed to the mainland, made clearings, and built log cabins where Louisville was to be. At the mouth of the Tennessee Clark left his boats and marched across to the Kaskaskia. On the evening of the 4th of July he crossed that river, and surrounded and took the town, whose inhabitants were not aware of the approach of an enemy. The Governor, Roebeblave, he sent prisoner to Virginia; the people he pacified by lenient treatment, and exacted from them an oath of allegiance to the United States. Cahokia, farther up the river, was then taken in the same way, and afterward Vincennes on the Wabash. In the autumn the county of Illinois was recognized and a civil commandant appointed.
Governor Hamilton of Detroit soon recovered Vincennes, where Clark had left only two men in the fort; Governor Hamilton approached the fort with eight hundred men and demanded a surrender. Captain Helm - with his one soldier - refused till he knew the terms. Hamilton, not knowing the weakness of the garrison, conceded the honors of war: the eight hundred men were drawn up to receive with proper ceremony the retiring garrison. but late the following winter, Clark marched from Kaskaskia, through a country much of which, at that season, was under water, retook the fort, and sent Hamilton as a prisoner of war to Virginia. This signal success, and the judicious as well as brave conduct of Clark, so influenced the Indian tribes of the Illinois, that from bitter enemies they became either friends of the Americans, or, at worst, neutrals in the war. It was more by skillful management, however, than by any display of material force - which was not at his command - that Clark brought about this result. He gave the savages, he says, "harsh language to supply the want of men, well knowing that it was a mistaken notion in many that soft speeches was best for Indians ; " he assured them "they would see their great father, as they called him, given to the dogs to eat." A letter of Colonel Clark, in which he gives a narrative of his expedition to Illinois, and the journal of his second in command, Major Bowman, - both documents belonging to the Kentucky Historical Society' - were published for the first time a few years since, with notes by Mr. Henry Pirtle of Louisville.
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