페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

a

ples, and in subserviency to the design of the campaign, M de Grasse sailed in March, 1781, from Brest, with twentyfive sail of the line, several thousand land forces, and a large convoy, amounting to more than two hundred ships. A small part of this force was destined for the East Indies, but M. de Grasse, with the greater part, sailed for Martinique.

The British fleet then in the West Indies had been previously weakened, by the departure of a squadron for the protection of the ships employed in carrying to England the booty which had been taken at St. Eustatius. The British admirals, Hood and Drake, were detached to intercept the outward-bound French fleet, commanded by M. de Grasse ; but a junction between his force and eight ships of the line, and one of fifty guns, which were previously at Martinique and St. Domingo, was nevertheless effected. By this combination of fresh ships from Europe, with the French fleet previously in the West Indies, they had a decided superiority.--M. de Grasse having finished his business in the West Indies, sailed, in the beginning of August, with a prodigious convoy. After seeing this out of danger, he directed his course to the Chesapeake, and arrived there on the thirtieth of the same month. Five days before his arrival in the Chesapeake, the French fleet in Rhode Island sailed for the same place. These fleets, notwithstanding their original distance from the scene of action, and from each other, coincided in their operations in an extraordinary manner,

far beyond the reach of military calculation. They all tended to one object, and at one and the same time; and that object was neither known nor suspected by the British, till the proper season for counter-action was elapsed.

This coincidence of favourable circumstances, extended to the marches of the American and French land forces. The plan of operations had been so well digested, and was so faithfully executed by the different commanders, that General Washington and count Rochambeau had passed the British head-quarters in New York, and were considerably advanced on their way to Yorktown, before the count de Grasse had reached the American coast. This was effected in the fol lowing manner: Monsieur de Barras, appointed to the command of the French squadron at Newport, arrived at Boston with despatches for count de Rochambeau.--An interview

[ocr errors]

a

soon afterwards took place at Weathersfield, between generals Washington, Knox, and du Portail, on the part of the Americans, and count de Rochambeau and the chevalier Chestelleux, on the part of the French. At this interview, an eventual plan of the whole campaign was fixed. This was to lay siege to New York, in concert with a French fleet, which was to arrive on the coast in the month of August. It was agreed, that the French troops should march towards the North River. Letters were addressed by General Washington to the executive officers of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Jersey, requiring them to fill up their battalions, and to have their quotas of six thousand two hundred militia in readiness within a week of the time when they might be demanded.—Conformably to these outlines of the campaign, the French troops marched from Rhode Island in June, and early in the following month joined the American army. At the same time, Washington marched his army from their winter encampment near Peekskill, to the vicininty of Kingsbridge. General Lincoln descended the North River with a detachment in boats, and took possession of the ground where Fort Independence formerly stood. An attack was made upon him, but was soon discontinued. The British about this time retired with almost the whole of their force to York Island.- Washington hoped to be able to commence operations against New York about the middle, or at furthest, the latter end of July. Flatbottomed boats, sufficient to transport five thousand men, were built near Albany, and brought down the North River to the neighbourhood of the American army before New York. Ovens were erected opposite to Staten Island, for the use of the French troops. Every movement introductory to the commencement of the siege, was made.--To the great mortification of Washington, he found himself, on the 2d of August, only a few hundreds stronger than on the day his army first moved from their winter-quarters.-- To have fixed on a plan of operations with a foreign officer, at the head of a respectable force; to have brought that force from a considerable distance, in confident expectation of reinforcements sufficiently large to commence effective operations against the common enemy; and at the same time to have engagements in behalf of the states violated in direct opposition to their own interests, and in a manner derogatory to

his personal honour; was enough to excite storms and tempests in any mind, less calm than that of General Washington.

He bore this hard trial with his usual magnanimity, and contented himself with repeating his requisitions to the states, and at the same time urged them, by every tie, to enable him to fulfil engagements entered into on their account with the commander of the French troops.

That tardiness, which at other times had brought the Americans near the brink of ruin, was now the accidental cause of real service. Had they sent forward their recruits for the regular army, and their quotas of militia, as was expected, the siege of New York would have commenced in ihe latter end of July, or early in August. While the season was wasting away in expectation of these reinforcements, lord Cornwallis, as has been mentioned, fixed himself near the Capes of Virginia. His situation there; the arrival of a reinforcement of three thousand Germans from Europe at New York; the superior strength of their garrison; the failure of the states in filling up their battalions and embodying their militia ; and especially recent intelligence from count de Grasse, that his destination was fixed to the Chesapeake ; concurred, about the middle of August, to make a total change in the plan of the campaign.

The appearance of an intention to attack New York, was nevertheless continued. While this deception was played off, the allied army crossed the North River, and passed on, by the way of Philadelphia, through the intermediate coun try to Yorktown.

An attempt to reduce the British force in Virginia, promised success with more expedition, and the security of an object of nearly equal importance with the redua tion of New York.

While the attack upon New York was in serious contemplation, a letter from General Washington, detailing the particulars of the intended operations of the campaign, being intercepted, fell into the hands of sir Henry Clinton. After the plan was changed, the royal commander was so much mder the impression of the intelligence contained in the intercepted letter, that he believed every movement towards Virginia to be a feint, calculated to draw off his attention from the defence of New York. Under the influence of this opinion, he bent his whole force to strengthen that post; and suf fered the American and French armies to pass him withou

a

[ocr errors]

molestation. When the best opportunity for striking at them was elapsed, then, for the first time, he was induced to believe, that the allies had fixed on Virginia for the theatre of their combined operations. As truth may be made to answer the purposes of deception, so no feint of attacking New York could have been more successful than the real intention.

In the latter end of August, the American army began its march to Virginia, from the neighbourhood of New York. Washington had advanced as far as Chester, before he received the news of the arrival of the fleet commanded by M. de Grasse. The French troops marched at the same time, and for the same place. General Washington and count Rochambeau, with generals Chastelleux, du Portail, and Knox, proceeded to visit count de Grasse, on board his ship, the Ville de Paris, and agreed on a plan of operations.

The count afterwards wrote to Washington, that, “ in case a British fleet appeared, he conceived that he ought to go out and meet them at sea, instead of risking an engagement in a confined situation.” This alarmed the general.

He sent the marquis de la Fayette with a letter to dissuade him froin the dangerous measure. This letter, and the persuasions of the marquis, had the desired effect.

The combined forces proceeded on their way to Yorktown, partly by land, and partly down the Chesapeake. The whole, together with a body of Virginia militia, under the command of general Nelson, rendezvouzed at Williantsburg, on the 25th of September, and in five days afterwards moved down to the investiture of Yorktown. The French fleet at the same time moved to the moush of York river, and took a position calculated to prevent lord Cornwallis either from retreating, or receiving succour by water.—Previously to the march from Williamsburg to Yorktown, Washington gave out in general orders, as follows: “If the enemy should be tempted to meet the army on its march, the general particularly enjoins the troops to place their principal reliance on the bayonet, that they may prove the vanity of the boast which the British make of their particular prowess in deciding battles with that weapon.”

The works erected for the security of Yorktown on the right, were redoubts and batteries, with a line of stockade in the rear. A marshy ravine lay in front of the right, over

a

a

[ocr errors]

which was placed a large redoubt. The morass extended along the centre, which was defended by a line of stockade, and by batteries. On the left of the centre, was a hornwork with a ditch, a row of frise, and an abatis. Two redoubts were advanced before the left. The combined forces ad vanced, and took possession of the ground from which the British had retired. About this time, the legion cavalry and mounted infantry passed over the river to Gloucester. General de Choisy invested the British post on that side, so fully, as to cut off all communication between it and the country.-In the mean time, the royal army was straining every nerve to strengthen their works ; and their artillery was constantly employed in impeding the operations of the combined

army. On the ninth and tenth of October, the Americans and French opened their batteries. They kept up a brisk and well directed fire from heavy cannon, from mortars and howitzers. The shells of the besiegers reached the ships in the harbour', the Charon of forty-four guns, and a transport ship, were burned. The besiegers commenced their second parallel two hundred yards from the works of the besieged. Two redoubts which were advanced on the left of the British, greatly impeded the progress of the combined armies. It was, therefore, proposed to carry them by storm. To excite a spirit of emulation, the reduction of the one was committed to the French; of the other, to the Americans. The assailants marched to the assault with unloaded arms; having passed the abatis and palisades, they attacked on all sides, aud carried the redoubt in a few minutes, with the loss of eight men killed, and twenty-eight wounded.

The French were equally successful on their part. They carried the redoubt assigned to them with rapidity, but lost a considerable number of men. These two redoubts were included in the second parallel, and facilitated the subsequent operations of the besiegers.

By this time, the batteries of the besiegers were covered with nearly a hundred pieces of heavy ordnance, and the works of the besieged were so damaged, that they could scarcely show a single gun. Lord Cornwallis had now no hope left, but from offering terms of capitulation, or attempting an escape. He determined on the latter. This, though less practicable than when first proposed, was not altogether hopeless. Boats were prepared to receive the troops in the

« 이전계속 »