페이지 이미지

could not be held to advantage, and it was evacuated on the 21st, when an attack was imminent. The American vessels retreated up the river; but they were cornered, and of course ultimately were destroyed. The obstructions being now removed, the British water communications by the line of the Delaware were established, - eight weeks after the occupation of the city, which was to be evacuated necessarily six months later. While these things were passing, Howe's triumph was marred by the news of Burgoyne's surrender on the 17th of October. For this he could not but feel that the home government must consider him largely responsible; for in the Chesapeake, too late to retrieve his false step, he had received a letter from the minister of war saying that, whatever else he undertook, support to Burgoyne was the great object to be kept in view. During the operations round Philadelphia, Sir Henry Clinton in New York had done enough to show what strong probabilities of success would have attended an advance up the Hudson, by the twenty thousand men whom Howe could have taken with him. Starting on the 3d of October with three thousand troops, accompanied by a small naval division of frigates, Clinton in a week had reached West Point, fifty miles up the river. The American fortifications along the way were captured, defences levelled, stores and shipping burned; while an insignificant detachment, with the light vessels, went fifty miles further up, and there destroyed more military stores without encountering any resistance worth mentioning. Certainly, had Howe taken the same line of operations, he would have had to reckon with Washington's ten thousand men which confronted him on the march from the Chesapeake to Philadelphia; but his flank would have been covered, up to Albany, by a navigable stream on either side of which he could operate by that flying bridge which the presence and control of the navy continually constituted. Save the fortifications, which Clinton easily carried, there was no threat to his communications or to his flank, such as the hill country of New Jersey had offered and Washington had skilfully utilised. The campaign of 1777 thus ended for the British with a conspicuous disaster, and with an apparent success which was as disastrous as a failure. At its close they held Narragansett Bay, the city and harbour of New York, and the city of Philadelphia. The first was an admirable naval base, especially for sailing ships, for the reasons given by Rodney. The second was then, as it is now, the greatest military position on the Atlantic coast of the United States; and although the two could not communicate by land, they did support each other as naval stations in a war essentially dependent upon maritime power. Philadelphia served no purpose but to divide and distract British enterprise. Absolutely dependent for maintenance upon the sea, the forces in it and in New York could not coöperate; they could not even unite except by sea. When Clinton relieved Howe as commander-in-chief, though less than a hundred miles away by land, he had to take a voyage of over two hundred miles, from New York to Philadelphia, half of it up a difficult river, to reach his station; and troops were transferred by the same tedious process. In consequence of these conditions, the place had to be abandoned the instant that war with France made control of the sea even doubtful. The British held it for less than nine months in all. During 1777 a number of raids were made by British combined land and sea forces, for the purpose of destroying American dépôts and other resources. Taken together, such operations are subsidiary to, and aid, the great object of interrupting or harassing the communications of an enemy. In so far, they have a standing place among the major operations of war; but taken singly they cannot be so reckoned, and the fact, therefore, is simply noted, without going into details. It may be remarked, however, that in them, although the scale was smaller, the Navy played the same part that it now does in the many expeditions and small wars undertaken by Great Britain in various parts of the world; the same that it did in Wellington's campaigns in the Spanish peninsula, 1808–1812. The land force depended upon the water, and the water was controlled by the Navy.




HE events of 1777 satisfied the French government that the Americans had strength and skill sufficient to embarrass Great Britain seriously, and that the moment, therefore, was opportune for taking steps which scarcely could fail to cause war. On the 6th of February, 1778, France concluded with the United States an open treaty of amity and commerce; and at the same time a second secret treaty, acknowledging the independence of the late Colonies, and contracting with them a defensive alliance. On the 13th of March, the French Ambassador in London communicated the open treaty to the British government, with the remark that “the United States were in full possession of the independence proclaimed by their declaration of July 4th, 1776.” Great Britain at once recalled her Ambassador, and both countries prepared for war, although no declaration was issued. On the 13th of April, a French fleet of twelve ships of the line and five frig

[ocr errors]

ates, under the command of the Count d'Estaing,” sailed
from Toulon for the American coast. It was destined to
Delaware Bay, hoping to intercept Howe's squadron. D'Es-
taing was directed to begin hostilities when forty leagues
west of Gibraltar.
The British ministry was not insensible of the danger,
the imminence of which had been felt during the previous
year; but it had not got ready betimes, owing possibly to
confident expectations of success from the campaign of
1777. The ships, in point of numbers and equipment, were
not as far forward as the Admiralty had represented; and
difficulty, amounting for the moment to impossibility, was
experienced in manning them. The vessels of the Channel
fleet had to be robbed of both crews and stores to compose
a proper reinforcement for America. Moreover, the destina-
tion of the Toulon squadron was unknown, the French govern-
ment having given out that it was bound to Brest, where over
twenty other ships of the line were in an advanced state of
preparation. Not until the 5th of June, when d'Estaing
was already eight weeks out, was certain news brought by a
frigate, which had watched his fleet after it had passed
Gibraltar, and which had accompanied it into the Atlantic
ninety leagues west of the Straits. The reinforcement
for America was then permitted to depart. On the 9th of
June, thirteen ships of the line sailed for New York under
the command of Vice-Admiral John Byron.”
These delays occasioned a singular and striking illustration
of the ill effects upon commerce of inadequate preparation
for manning the fleet. A considerable number of West

1 Charles H., Comte d'Estaing. Born, 1729. Served in India under Lally Tollendal, 1758. After having been taken prisoner at Madras in 1759, exchanged into the navy. Commanded in North America, 1778–80. Guillotined, 1794. W. L. C. * Grandfather of the poet.

« 이전계속 »