페이지 이미지

as to the route and force of the Franco-Spanish fleet under de Guichen, of the sickness on board it, and of the dissension between the allies. From St. Kitts the July "trade" was sent home with two ships of the line. Three others, he wrote to the Admiralty, would accompany the September fleet, "and the remainder of the ships on this station, which are in want of great repair and are not copper-bottomed, shall proceed with them or with the convoy which their Lordships have been pleased to order shall sail from hence in October next." If these arrived before winter, he argued, they would be available by spring as a reinforcement for the Channel fleet, and would enable the Admiralty to send him an equivalent number for the winter work on his station.

As de Guichen had taken the whole French homeward merchant fleet from Martinique to Cap Francois and as the height of the hurricane season was near, Rodney reasoned that but a small French force would remain in Haiti, and consequently that Jamaica would not require all the British fleet to save it from any possible attack. He therefore sent thither ten sail of the line, notifying Vice-Admiral Sir Peter Parker that they were not merely to defend the island, but to enable him to send home its great trade in reasonable security.

These things being done by July 31st, Rodney, reasoning that the allies had practically abandoned all enterprises in the West Indies for that year, and that a hurricane might at any moment overtake the fleet at its anchors, possibly making for it a lee shore, went to sea, to cruise with the fleet off Barbuda. His mind, however, was inclined already to go to the continent, whither he inferred, correctly but mistakenly, that the greater part of de Guichen's fleet would go, because it should. His purpose was confirmed by information from an American vessel that a French squadron of seven ships of the line, convoying six thousand troops, had anchored in Narragansett Bay on the 12th of July. He started at once for the coast of South Carolina, where he communicated with the army in Charleston, and thence, "sweeping the southern coast of America," anchored with fourteen ships of the line at Sandy Hook, on the 14th of September, unexpected and unwelcome to friends and foes alike.

Vice-Admiral Arbuthnot, being junior to Rodney, showed plainly and with insubordination his wrath at this intrusion into his command, which superseded his authority and divided the prize-money of a lucrative station. This, however, was a detail. To Washington, Rodney's coming was a deathblow to the hopes raised by the arrival of the French division at Newport, which he had expected to see reinforced by de Guichen. Actually, the departure of the latter made immaterial Rodney's appearance on the scene; but this Washington did not know then. As it was, Rodney's force joined to Arbuthnot's constituted a fleet of over twenty sail of the line, before which, vigorously used, there can be little doubt that the French squadron in Newport must have fallen. But Rodney, though he had shown great energy in the West Indies, and unusual resolution in quitting his own station for a more remote service, was sixty-two, and suffered from gout. "The sudden change of climate makes it necessary for me to go on shore for some short time," he wrote; and although he added that his illness was "not of such a nature as shall cause one moment's delay in his Majesty's service," he probably lost a chance at Rhode Island. He did not overlook the matter, it is true; but he decided upon the information of Arbuthnot and Sir Henry Clinton, and did not inspect the ground himself. Nothing of consequence came of his visit; and on the 16th of November he sailed again for the West Indies, taking with him only nine sail of the line.

The arrival of de Ternay's seven ships at Newport was more than offset by a British reinforcement of six ships of the line under Rear-Admiral Thomas Graves which entered New York on July 13th, — only one day later. Arbuthnot's force was thus raised to ten of the line, one of which was of 98 guns. After Rodney had come and gone, the French division was watched by cruisers, resting upon Gardiner's Bay, — a commodious anchorage at the east end of Long Island, between thirty and forty miles from Rhode Island. When a movement of the enemy was apprehended, the squadron assembled there, but nothing of consequence occurred during the remainder of the year.

The year 1780 had been one of great discouragement to the Americans, but the injury, except as the lapse of time taxed their staying power, was more superficial than real. The successes of the British in the southern States, though undeniable, and seemingly substantial, were involving them ever more deeply in a ruinously ex-centric movement. They need here only to be summarised, as steps in the process leading to the catastrophe of Yorktown, — a disaster which, as Washington said, exemplified naval rather than military power.

The failure of d'Estaing's attack upon Savannah in the autumn of 1779 1 had left that place in the possession of the British as a base for further advances in South Carolina and Georgia; lasting success in which was expected from the numbers of royalists in those States. When the departure of the French fleet was ascertained, Sir Henry Clinton put to sea from New York in December, 1779, for the Savannah River, escorted by Vice-Admiral Arbuthnot. The details of the operations, which were leisurely and methodical, will not be given here; for, although the Navy took an active part in them, they scarcely can be considered of major importance. On the 12th of May, 1780, the city of Charleston capitulated, between six and seven thousand prisoners being

1 Ante, p. 115.

taken. Clinton then returned to New York, leaving Lord Cornwallis in command in the south. The latter proposed to remain quiet during the hot months; but the activity of the American partisan troops prevented this, and in July the approach of a small, but relatively formidable force, under General Gates, compelled him to take the field. On the 16th of August the two little armies met at Camden, and the Americans, who were much the more numerous, but largely irregulars, were routed decisively. This news reached General Washington in the north nearly at the same moment that the treason of Benedict Arnold became known. Although the objects of his treachery were frustrated, the sorrowful words, "Whom now can we trust?" show the deep gloom which for the moment shadowed the constant mind of the American Commander-in-Chief. It was just at this period, too, that Rodney arrived at New York.

Cornwallis, not content with his late success, decided to push on into North Carolina. Thus doing, he separated himself from his naval base in Charleston, communication with which by land he had not force to maintain, and could recover effective touch with the sea only in Chesapeake Bay. This conclusion was not apparent from the first. In North Carolina, the British general did not receive from the inhabitants the substantial support which he had expected, and found himself instead in a very difficult and wild country, confronted by General Greene, the second in ability of all the American leaders. Harassed and baffled, he was compelled to order supplies to be sent by sea to Wilmington, North Carolina, an out-of-the-way and inferior port, to which he turned aside, arriving exhausted on the 7th of April, 1781. The question as to his future course remained to be settled. To return to Charleston by sea was in his power, but to do so would be an open confession of failure, — that he could not return by land, through the country by which he had come —much the same dilemma as that of Howe and Clinton in Philadelphia. To support him in his distress by a diversion, Sir Henry Clinton had sent two successive detachments to ravage the valley of the James River in Virginia. These were still there, under the command of General Phillips; and Cornwallis, in the circumstances, could see many reasons that thither was the very scene to carry the British operations. On the 25th of April, 1781, he left Wilmington, and a month later joined the division at Petersburg, Virginia, then commanded by Benedict Arnold; Phillips having died. There, in touch now with his fate, we must leave him for the moment.

To complete the naval transactions of 1780, it is necessary to mention briefly two incidents, trivial in themselves, but significant, not only as associated with the greater movements of the campaign, but as indicative of the naval policy of the States which were at war. The two, though not otherwise connected, have a certain unity of interest, in that the same British officer commanded on both occasions.

It will be remembered that in Byron's action off Grenada, in July, 1779, the 64-gun ship Lion received such injuries that her commander, Captain Cornwallis, had been compelled to run down before the trade-winds to Jamaica, in order to save her from capture. Since that time she had remained there, as one of the squadron of Vice-Admiral Sir Peter Parker. In March, 1780, still commanded by Cornwallis, she was making an ordinary service cruise off the north side of Haiti, having in company the Bristol, 50, and the Janus, 44. On the 20th of March, off Monte Christi, a number of sail were sighted to the eastward, which proved to be a French convoy, on its way from Martinique to Cap Francois, protected by La Motte-Picquet's squadron of two 74's, one 64, one 50, and a frigate. The French merchant ships were ordered to crowd sail for their port, while the men-of-war

« 이전계속 »