IN the invasion of the South by Cornwallis, as in the invasion of the North by Burgoyne, the first serious blow which the enemy received was dealt by the militia. After his great victory over Gates, Cornwallis remained nearly a month at Camden resting his troops, who found the August heat intolerable.
By the middle of September, 1780, he had started on his march to North Carolina, of which he expected to make an easy conquest. But his reception in that State was anything but hospitable. Advancing as far as Charlotte, he found himself in the midst of that famous Mecklenburg County which had issued its “declaration of independence” immediately on receiving the news of the battle of Lexington. These rebels, he said, were the most obstinate he had found in America, and he called their country a “ hornet’s nest.” Bands of yeomanry lurking about every woodland road cut off his foraging parties, slew his couriers, and captured his dispatches. It was difficult for him to get any information ; but bad news proverbially travels fast, and it was not long before he received intelligence of dire disaster.
Before leaving South Carolina Cornwallis had detached Major Ferguson — whom, next to Tarleton, he considered his best partisan officer — to scour the highlands and enlist as large a force of Tory auxiliaries as possible, after which he was to join the main army at Charlotte. Ferguson took with him 200 British light infantry and 1000 Tories, whom he had drilled until they had become excellent troops. It was not supposed that he would meet with serious opposition, but in case of any unforeseen danger he was to retreat with all possible speed and join the main army. Now the enterprising Ferguson undertook to entrap and capture a small force of American partisans; and while pursuing this bait, he pushed into the wilderness as far as Gilbert Town, in the heart of what is now the county of Rutherford, when all at once he became aware that enemies were swarming about him on every side. The approach of a hostile force and the rumor of Indian war had aroused the hardy backwoodsmen who dwelt in these wild and romantic glens. Accustomed to Indian raids, these quick and resolute men were always ready to assemble at a moment’s warning; and now they came pouring from all directions, through the defiles of the Alleghanies, a picturesque and motley crowd, in fringed and tasseled hunting-shirts, with sprigs of hemlock in their hats, and armed with long knives and rifles that seldom missed their aim. From the south came James Williams, of Ninety-Six, with his 400 men; from the north, William Campbell, of Virginia, Benjamin Cleveland and Charles McDowell, of North Carolina, with 560 followers; from the west, Isaac Shelby and John Sevier, whose names were to become so famous in the early history of Kentucky and Tennessee. By the 30th of September 3000 of these “ dirty mongrels,” as Ferguson called them, — men in whose veins flowed the blood of Scottish Covenanters and French Huguenots and English sea rovers, — had gathered in such threatening proximity that the British commander started in all haste on his retreat toward the main army at Charlotte, sending messengers ahead, who were duly waylaid and shot down before they could reach Cornwallis and inform him of the danger. The pursuit was vigorously pressed, and on the night of the 6th of October, finding escape impossible without a fight, Ferguson planted himself on the top of King’s Mountain, a ridge about half a mile in length and 1700 feet above sea level, situated just on the border line between the two Carolinas. The crest is approached on three sides by rising ground, above which the steep summit towers for a hundred feet; on the north side it is an unbroken precipice. The mountain was covered with tall pine-trees, beneath which the ground, though little cumbered with underbrush, was obstructed on every side by huge moss-grown boulders. Perched with 1125 stanch men on this natural stronghold, as the bright autumn sun came up on the morning of the 7th, Ferguson looked about him exultingly, and cried, “Well, boys, here is a place from which all the rebels outside of hell cannot drive us !”
He was dealing, however, with men who were used to climbing hills. About three o’clock in the afternoon, the advanced party of Americans, 1000 picked men, arrived in the ravine below the mountain, and, tying their horses to the trees, prepared to storm the position. The precipice on the north was too steep for the enemy to descend, and thus effectually cut off their retreat. Divided into three equal parties, the Americans ascended the other three sides simultaneously. Campbell and Shelby pushed up in front until near the crest, when Ferguson opened fire on them. They then fell apart behind trees, returning the fire most effectively, but suffering little themselves, while slowly they crept up nearer the crest. As the British then charged down upon them with bayonets, they fell back, until the British ranks were suddenly shaken by a deadly flank fire from the division of Sevier and McDowell on the right. Turning furiously to meet these new assailants, the British received a volley in their backs from the left division, under Cleveland and Williams, while the centre division promptly rallied, and attacked them on what was now their flank. Thus dreadfully entrapped, the British fired wildly and with little effect, while the trees and boulders prevented the compactness needful for a bayonet charge. The Americans, on the other hand, sure of their prey, crept on steadily toward the summit, losing scarcely a man, and firing with great deliberateness and precision, while hardly a word was spoken. As they closed in upon the ridge a rifleball pierced the brave Ferguson’s heart, and he fell from his white horse, which sprang wildly down the mountain side. All further resistance being hopeless, a white flag was raised, and the firing was stopped. Of Ferguson’s 1125 men, 389 were killed or wounded and 20 were missing, and the remaining 716 now surrendered themselves prisoners of war, with 1500 stand of arms. The total American loss was 28 killed and 60 wounded ; but among the killed was the famous partisan commander James Williams, whose loss might be regarded as offsetting that of Major Ferguson.
This brilliant victory at King’s Mountain resembled the victory at Bennington in its suddenness and completeness, as well as in having been gained by militia. It was also the harbinger of greater victories at the South, as Bennington had been the harbinger of greater victories at the North. The backwoodsmen who had dealt such a blow did not, indeed, follow it up and hover about the flanks of Cornwallis, as the Green Mountain boys had hovered about the flanks of Burgoyne. Had there been an organized army opposed to Cornwallis, to serve as a nucleus for them, perhaps they might have done so. As it was, they soon dispersed and returned to their homes, after having sullied their triumph by hanging a dozen prisoners, in revenge for Clarke’s men who had been massacred at Augusta. They had, nevertheless, warded off for the moment the threatened invasion of North Carolina. Thoroughly alarmed by this blow, Cornwallis lost no time in falling back upon Winnsborough, there to wait for reinforcements, for he was in no condition to afford the loss of 1100 men. General Leslie had been sent by Sir Henry Clinton to Virginia with 3000 men, and Cornwallis ordered this force to join him without delay.
Hope began now to return to the patriots of South Carolina, and during the months of October and November their activity was greatly increased. Marion in the northeastern part of the State, and Sumter in the northwest, redoubled their energies, and it was more than even Tarleton could do to look after them both. On the 20th of November Tarleton was defeated by Sumter in a sharp action at Blackstock Hill, and the disgrace of the 18th of August was thus wiped out. On the retreat of Cornwallis, the remnants of the American regular army, which Gates had been slowly collecting at Hillsborough, advanced and occupied Charlotte. There were scarcely 1400 of them, all told, and their condition was forlorn enough. But reinforcements from the North were at hand ; and first of all came Daniel Morgan, always a host in himself. Morgan, like Arnold, had been ill treated by Congress. His services at Quebec and Saratoga had been hardly inferior to Arnold’s, yet, in 1779, he had seen junior officers promoted over his head, and had resigned his commission, and retired to his home in Virginia. When Gates took command of the Southern army, Morgan was urged to enter the service again; but, as it was not proposed to restore him to his relative rank, he refused. After Camden, however, he declared that it was no time to let personal considerations have any weight, and he straightway came down and joined Gates at Hillsborough in September. At last, on the 13th of October, Congress had the good sense to give him the rank to which he was entitled ; and it was not long, as we shall see, before it had reason to congratulate itself upon this act of justice.
But, more than anything else, the army which it was now sought to restore needed a new commander-in-chief. It was well known that Washington had wished to have Greene appointed to that position, in the first place. Congress had persisted in appointing its own favorite instead, and had lost an army in consequence. It could now hardly do better, though late in the day, than take Washington’s advice. It would not do to run the risk of another Camden. In every campaign since the beginning of the war Greene had been Washington’s right arm; and for indefatigable industry, for strength and breadth of intelligence, and for unselfish devotion to the public service, he was scarcely inferior to the commander-in-chief. Yet he too had been repeatedly insulted and abused by men who liked to strike at Washington through his favorite officers. As quartermaster-general, since the spring of 1778, Greene had been malevolently persecuted by a party in Congress, until, in July, 1780, his patience gave way, and he resigned in disgust. His enemies seized the occasion to urge his dismissal from the army, and but for his own keen sense of public duty and Washington’s unfailing tact his services might have been lost to the country at a most critical moment. On the 5th of October Congress called upon Washington to name a successor to Gates, and he immediately appointed Greene, who arrived at Charlotte and took command on the 2d of December. Steuben accompanied Greene as far as Virginia, and was placed in command in that State, charged with the duty of collecting and forwarding supplies and reinforcements to Greene, and of warding off the forces which Sir Henry Clinton sent to the Chesapeake to make diversions in aid of Cornwallis. The first force of this sort, under General Leslie, had just been obliged to proceed by sea to South Carolina, to make good the loss inflicted upon Cornwallis by the battle of King’s Mountain ; and, to replace Leslie in Virginia, Sir Henry Clinton, in December, sent the traitor Arnold, fresh from the scene of his treason, with 1600 men, mostly New York loyalists. Steuben’s duty was to guard Virginia against Arnold, and to keep open Greene’s communications with the North. At the same time, Washington sent down with Greene the engineer Kosciusko and Henry Lee with his admirable legion of cavalry. Another superb cavalry commander now appears for the first time upon the scene in the person of Lieutenant-Colonel William Washington, of Virginia, a distant cousin of the commander-in-chief.
The Southern army, though weak in numbers, was thus extraordinarily strong in the talent of its officers. They were men who knew how to accomplish great results with small means, and Greene understood how far he might rely upon them. No sooner had he taken command than he began a series of movements which, though daring in the extreme, were as far as possible from partaking of the unreasoned rashness which had characterized the advance of Gates. That unintelligent commander had sneered at cavalry as useless, but Greene largely based his plan of operations upon what could be done by such swift blows as Washington and Lee knew how to deal. Gates had despised the aid of partisan chiefs, but Greene saw at once the importance of utilizing such men as Sumter and Marion. His army as a solid whole was too weak to cope with that of Cornwallis. By a bold and happy thought, he divided it, for the moment, into two great partisan bodies. The larger body, 1100 strong, he led in person to Cheraw Hill, on the Pedee River, where he cooperated with Marion. From this point Marion and Lee kept up a series of rapid movements which threatened Cornwallis’s communications with the coast. On one occasion, they actually galloped into Georgetown and captured the commander of that post. Cornwallis was thus gravely annoyed, but he was unable to advance upon these provoking antagonists without risking the loss of Augusta and Ninety-Six ; for Greene had thrown the other part of his little army, 900 strong, under Morgan, to the westward, so as to threaten those important inland posts and to coöperate with the mountain militia. With Morgan’s force went William Washington, who accomplished a most brilliant raid, penetrating the enemy’s lines, and destroying a party of 250 men at a single blow.
Thus worried and menaced upon both his flanks, Cornwallis hardly knew which way to turn. He did not underrate his adversaries. He had himself seen what sort of man Greene was, at Princeton and Brandywine and Germantown. while Morgan’s abilities were equally well known. He could not leave Morgan and attack Greene without losing his hold upon the interior; but if he were to advance in full force upon Morgan, the wily Greene would be sure to pounce upon Charleston and cut him off from the coast. In this dilemma, Cornwallis at last decided to divide his own forces. With his main body, 2000 strong, he advanced into North Carolina, hoping to draw Greene after him ; while he sent Tarleton with the rest of his army, 1100 strong, to take care of Morgan. By this division the superiority of the British force was to some extent neutralized. Both commanders were playing a skillful but hazardous game, in which much depended on the sagacity of their lieutenants ; and now the brave but over-confident Tarleton was outmarched and outfought. On his approach, Morgan retreated to a grazing ground known as the Cowpens, a few miles from King’s Mountain, where he could fight on ground of his own choosing. His choice was indeed a peculiar one, for he had a broad river in his rear, which cut off retreat; but this, he said, was just what he wanted, for his militia would know that there was no use in running away. It was cheaper than stationing regulars in the rear, to shoot down the cowards. Morgan’s daring was justified by the result. The ground, a long rising slope, commanded the enemy’s approach for a great distance. On the morning of January 17, 1781, as Tarleton’s advance was descried, Morgan formed his men in order of battle. First he arranged his Carolinian and Georgian militia in a line about three hundred yards in length, and exhorted them not to give way until they should have delivered at least two volleys “ at killing distance.” One hundred and fifty yards in the rear of this line, and along the brow of the gentle hill, he stationed the splendid American brigade which Kalb had led at Camden, and supported it by some excellent Virginia troops. Still one hundred and fifty yards further back, upon a second rising ground, he placed Colonel Washington with his cavalry. Arranged in this wise, the army awaited the British attack.
Tarleton’s men had been toiling half the night over muddy roads and wading through swollen brooks, but nothing could restrain his eagerness to strike a sudden blow, and just about sunrise he charged upon the first American line. The militia, who were commanded by the redoubtable Pickens, behaved very well, and delivered, not two, but many deadly volleys at close range, causing the British lines to waver for a moment. As the British recovered themselves and pressed on, the militia broke into two parts, and retired—partly to right, partly to left — behind the line of Continentals ; while the British line, in pursuing, became so extended as to threaten the flanks of the Continental line. To avoid being overlapped, the Continentals retreated in perfect order to the second hill, and the British followed them hastily and in some confusion, having become too confident of victory. At this moment, Colonel Washington, having swept down from his hill in a semicircle, charged the British right flank with fatal effect; Pickens’s militia, who had re-formed in the rear and marched around the hill, advanced upon their left flank; while the Continentals, in front, broke their ranks with a deadly fire at thirty yards, and instantly rushed upon them with the bayonet. The greater part of the British army thereupon threw down their arms and surrendered, while the rest were scattered in flight. It was a complete rout. The British lost 230 in killed and wounded, 600 prisoners, two field-pieces, and 1000 stand of arms. Their loss was about equal to the whole American force engaged. Only 270 escaped from the field, among them Tarleton, who barely saved himself in a furious single combat with Washington. The American loss, in this astonishing battle, was 12 killed and 61 wounded. In point of tactics, it was the most brilliant battle of the War for Independence.
Having struck this crushing blow, which deprived Cornwallis of one third of his force, Morgan did not rest for a moment. The only direct road by which he could rejoin Greene lay to the northward, across the fords of the Catawba River, and Cornwallis was at this instant nearer than himself to these fords. By a superb march, Morgan reached the river first, and, crossing it, kept on northeastward into North Carolina, with Cornwallis following closely upon his heels. On the 24th of January, one week after the battle of the Cowpens, the news of it reached Greene in his camp on the Pedee, and he learned the nature of Morgan’s movements after the battle. Now was the time for putting into execution a brilliant scheme. If he could draw the British general far enough to the northward, he might compel him to join battle under disadvantageous circumstances and at a great distance from his base of operations. Accordingly, Greene put his main army in motion under General Huger, telling him to push steadily to the northward ; while he himself, taking only a sergeant’s guard of dragoons, rode with all possible speed a hundred and fifty miles across the country, and on the morning of the 30th reached the valley of the Catawba, and put himself at the head of Morgan’s force, which Cornwallis was still pursuing. Now the gallant earl realized the deadly nature of the blow which at King’s Mountain and the Cowpens had swept away nearly all his light troops. In his eagerness and mortification, he was led to destroy the heavy baggage which encumbered his headlong march. He was falling into the trap. A most exciting game of strategy was kept up for the next ten days; Greene steadily pushing northeastward on a line converging toward that taken by his main army, Cornwallis vainly trying to get near enough to compel him to fight. The weather had been very rainy, and an interesting feature of the retreat was the swelling of the rivers, which rendered them unfordable. Greene took advantage of this circumstance, having, with admirable forethought, provided himself with boats, which were dragged overland on light wheels, and speedily launched as they came to a river ; carrying as part of their freight the wheels upon which they were again to be mounted so soon as they should have crossed. On the 9th of February Greene reached Guilford Court-House, in the northern part of North Carolina, only thirty miles from the Virginia border; and there he effected a junction with the main army, which Huger had brought up from the camp on the Pedee. On the next day, the gallant Morgan, broken down by illness, was obliged to give up his command.
It had not been a part of Greene’s plan to retreat any farther. He had intended to offer battle at this point, and had sent word to Steuben to forward reinforcements from Virginia for this purpose. But Arnold’s invasion of Virginia had so far taxed the good baron’s resources that he had not yet been able to send on the reinforcements ; and as Greene’s force was still inferior to the enemy’s, he decided to continue his retreat. After five days of fencing, he placed his army on the north side of the Dan, a broad and rapid stream, which Cornwallis had no means of crossing. Thus balked of his prey, the earl proceeded to Hillsborough, and issued a proclamation announcing that he had conquered North Carolina, and inviting the loyalists to rally around his standard. A few Tories came out and enlisted, but these proceedings were soon checked by the news that the American general had recrosscd the river, and was advancing in a threatening manner. Greene had intended to await his reinforcements on the Virginia side of the river, but he soon saw that it would not do to encourage the Tories by the belief that he had abandoned North Carolina. On the 23d he recrossed the Dan, and led Cornwallis a will-o’-thewisp chase, marching and countermarching, and foiling every attempt to bring him to bay, until, on the 14th of March, having at last been reinforced till his army numbered 4404 men, he suddenly pulled up at Guilford Court-House, and offered his adversary the long-coveted battle. Cornwallis had only 2213 men, but they were all veterans, and a battle had come to be for him an absolute military necessity. He had risked everything in this long march, and could not maintain himself in an exposed position, so far from support, without inflicting a crushing defeat upon his opponent. To Greene a battle was now almost equally desirable, but it need not necessarily be an out-and-out victory : it was enough that he should seriously weaken and damage the enemy.
On the morning of March 15th Greene drew up his army in three lines. The first, consisting of North Carolina militia, was placed in front of an open cornfield. It was expected that these men would give way before the onset of the British regulars ; but it was thought that they could be depended upon to fire two or three volleys first, and, as they were excellent marksmen, this would make gaps in the British line. In a wood three hundred yards behind stood the second line, consisting of Virginia militia, whose fire was expected still further to impede the enemy’s advance. On a hill four hundred yards in the rear of these were stationed the regulars of Maryland and Virginia. The flanks were guarded by Campbell’s riflemen and the cavalry under Washington and Lee. Early in the afternoon the British opened the battle by a charge upon the North Carolina militia, who were soon driven from the field in confusion. The Virginia line, however, stood its ground bravely, and it was only after a desperate struggle that the enemy slowly pushed it back. The attack upon the third American line met with varied fortunes. On the right the Maryland troops prevailed, and drove the British at the point of the bayonet; but on the left the other Maryland brigade was overpowered and forced back, with the loss of two cannon. A charge by Colonel Washington’s cavalry restored the day, the cannon were retaken, and for a while the victory seemed secured for the Americans. Cornwallis was thrown upon the defensive, but after two hours of hard fighting he succeeded in restoring order among his men and concentrating them upon the hill near the court-house, where all attempts to break their line proved futile. As evening came on, Greene retired, with a loss of more than 400 men, leaving the enemy in possession of the field, but too badly crippled to move. The British fighting was simply magnificent, — worthy to be compared with that of Thomas and his men at Chickamauga. In the course of five hours they had lost about 600 men, more than one fourth of their number. This damage was irretrievable. The little army, thus cut down to a total of scarcely 1600 men, could not afford to risk another battle. Greene’s audacious scheme had been crowned with success. He had lured Cornwallis far into a hostile country, more than two hundred miles distant from his base of operations. The earl now saw too late that he had been outgeneraled. To march back to South Carolina was more than he dared to venture, and he could not stay where he was. Accordingly, on the third day after the battle of Guilford, abandoning his wounded, Cornwallis started in all haste for Wilmington, the nearest point on the coast at which he could look for aid from the fleet.
By this movement Lord Cornwallis virtually gave up the game. The battle of Guilford, though tactically a defeat for the Americans, was strategically a decisive victory, and the most important one since the capture of Burgoyne. Its full significance was soon made apparent. When Cornwallis, on the 7th of April, arrived at Wilmington, what was he to do next ? To transport his army by sea to Charleston, and thus begin his work over again, would be an open confession of defeat. The most practicable course appeared to be to shift the scene altogether, and march into Virginia, where a fresh opportunity seemed to present itself. Sir Henry Clinton had just sent General Phillips down to Virginia, with a force which, if combined with that of Cornwallis, would amount to more than 5000 men ; and with this army it might prove possible to strike a heavy blow in Virginia, and afterward invade the Carolinas from the north. Influenced by such considerations, Cornwallis started from Wilmington on the 25th of April, and arrived on the 20th of May at Petersburg, in Virginia, where he effected a junction with the forces of Arnold and Phillips. This important movement was made by Cornwallis on his own responsibility. It was never sanctioned by Sir Henry Clinton, and in after years it became the occasion of a bitter controversy between the two generals; but the earl was at this time a favorite with Lord George Germaine, and the commander-in-chief was obliged to modify his own plans in order to support a movement of which he disapproved.
But while Cornwallis was carrying out this extensive change of programme, what was his adversary doing? Greene pursued the retreating enemy about fifty miles, from Guilford Court-House to Ramsay’s Mills, a little above the fork of the Cape Fear River, and then suddenly left him to himself, and faced about for South Carolina. Should Cornwallis decide to follow him, at least the State of North Carolina would be relieved ; but Greene had builded even better than he knew. He had really eliminated Cornwallis from the game, had thrown him out on the margin of the chessboard; and now he could go to work with his hands free and redeem South Carolina. The strategic points there were still held by the enemy ; Camden, Ninety-Six, and Augusta were still in their possession. Camden, the most important of all, was held by Lord Rawdon with 900 men; and toward Camden, a hundred and sixty miles distant, Greene turned on the 6th of April, leaving Cornwallis to make his way unmolested to the seaboard. Greene kept his counsel so well that his own officers failed to understand the drift of his profound and daring strategy. The movement which he now made had not been taken into account by Cornwallis, who had expected by his own movements at least to detain his adversary. That Greene should actually ignore him was an idea which he had not yet taken in, and by the time he fully comprehended the situation he was already on his way to Virginia, and committed to his new programme. The patriots in South Carolina had also failed to understand Greene’s sweeping movements, and his long absence had cast down their hopes ; but on his return, without Cornwallis, there was a revulsion of feeling. People began to look for victory.
On the 18th of April the American army approached Camden, while Lee was detached to coöperate with Marion in reducing Fort Watson. This stronghold, standing midway between Camden and Charleston, commanded Lord Rawdon’s line of communications with the coast. The execution of this cardinal movement was marked by a picturesque incident. Fort Watson was built on an Indian mound, rising forty feet sheer above the champaign country in which it stood, and had no doubt witnessed many a wild siege before ever the white man came to Carolina. It was garrisoned by 120 good soldiers, but neither they nor the besiegers had any cannon. It was to be an affair of rifles. Lee looked with disgust on the low land about him. Oh for a hill which might command this fortress, even as Ticonderoga was overlooked on that memorable day when Phillips dragged his guns up Mount Defiance ! A happy thought now flashed upon Major Mayham, one of Marion’s officers. Why not make a hill ? There grew near by a forest of superb yellow pine, heavy and hard as stone. For five days and nights the men worked like beavers in the depths of the wood, quite screened from the sight of the garrison. Forest trees were felled, and saws, chisels, and adzes worked them into shape. Great beams were fitted with mortise and tenon ; and at last, in a single night, they were dragged out before the fortress and put together, as in an old-fashioned New England “ house - raising.” At daybreak of April 23d the British found themselves overlooked by an enormous wooden tower, surmounted by a platform crowded with marksmen, ready to pick off the garrison at their leisure; while its base was protected by a breastwork of logs, behind which lurked a hundred deadly rifles. Before the sun was an hour high a white flag was hung out, and Fort Watson was surrendered at discretion.
While these things were going on Greene reached Camden, and, finding his force insufficient either to assault or to invest it, took up a strong position at Hobkirk’s Hill, about two miles to the north. On the 25th of April Lord Rawdon advanced, to drive him from this position, and a battle ensued, in which the victory, nearly won, slipped through Greene’s fingers. The famous Maryland brigade, which in all these Southern campaigns had stood forth preëminent, like Cæsar’s tenth legion, — which had been the last to leave the disastrous field of Camden, which had overwhelmed Tarleton at the Cowpens, and had so nearly won the day at Guilford, — now behaved badly, and, falling into confusion through a misunderstanding of orders, deranged Greene’s masterly plan of battle. He was driven from his position, and three days later retreated ten miles to Clermont; but, just as at Guilford, his plan of campaign was so good that he proceeded forthwith to reap all the fruits of victory. The fall of Fort Watson, breaking Rawdon’s communication with the coast, made it impossible for him to stay where he was. On the 10th of May the British general retreated rapidly, until he reached Monk’s Corner, within thirty miles of Charleston; and the all-important post of Camden, the first great prize of the campaign, fell into Greene’s hands.
Victories followed now in quick succession. Within three weeks Lee and Marion had taken Fort Motte and Fort Granby, Sumter had taken Orangeburg, and on the 5th of June, after an obstinate defense, Augusta surrendered to Lee, thus throwing open the State of Georgia. Nothing was left to the British but Ninety-Six, which was strongly garrisoned, and now withstood a vigorous siege of twenty-eight days. Determined not to lose this last hold upon the interior, and anxious to crush his adversary in battle, if possible, Lord Rawdon collected all the force he could, well-nigh stripping Charleston of its defenders, and thus, with 2000 men, came up in all haste to raise the siege of Ninety-Six. His bold movement was successful for the moment. Greene, too prudent to risk a battle, withdrew, and the frontier fortress was relieved. It was impossible, however, for Rawdon to hold it and keep his army there, so far from the seaboard, after all the other inland posts had fallen, and on the 29th of June he evacuated the place, and retreated upon Orangeburg; while Greene, following him, took up a strong position on the High Hills of Santee. Thus, within three months after Greene’s return from Guilford, the upper country of South Carolina had been completely reconquered, and only one successful battle was now needed to drive the enemy back upon Charleston. But first it was necessary to take some rest and recruit the little army, which had toiled so incessantly since the last December. The enemy, too, felt the need of rest, and the heat was intolerable. Both armies, accordingly, lay and watched each other until after the middle of August.
During this vacation, Lord Rawdon, worn out and ill from his rough campaigning, embarked for England, leaving Colonel Stuart in command of the forces in South Carolina. Greene busied himself in recruiting his army, until it numbered 2600 men, though 1000 of these were militia. His position on the High Hills of Santee was, by an air line, distant only sixteen miles from the British army. The intervening space was filled by meadows, through which the Wateree and Congaree rivers flowed to meet each other; and often, as now, when the swift waters, swollen by rain, overflowed the lowlands, it seemed like a vast lake, save for the tops of tall pine-trees that here and there showed themselves in deepest green, protruding from the mirror-like surface. Greene understood the value of this meadow land as a barrier, when he chose the site for his summer camp. The enemy could reach him only by a circuitous march of seventy miles. On the 22d of August Greene broke up his camp very quietly, and started out on the last of his sagacious campaigns. The noonday heat was so intense that he marched only in the morning and evening, in order to keep his men fresh and active ; while by vigilant scouting parties he so completely cut off the enemy’s means of information that Stuart remained ignorant of his approach until he was close at hand. The British commander then fell back upon Eutaw Springs, about fifty miles from Charleston, where he waited in a strong position.
The limits of this paper do not allow us to describe the interesting battle of Eutaw Springs. It may be resolved into two brief actions between sunrise and noon of the 8th of September, 1781. In the first action the British line was broken and driven from the field. In the second Stuart succeeded in forming a new line, supported by a brick house and palisaded garden, and from this position Greene was unable to drive him. It has therefore been set down as a British victory. If so, it was a victory followed the next evening by the hasty retreat of the victors, who were hotly pursued for thirty miles by Marion and Lee. Strategically considered, it was a decisive victory for the Americans. The state government was restored to supremacy, and, though partisan scrimmages were kept up for another year, these were but the dying embers of the fire. The British were cooped up in Charleston till the end of the war, protected by their ships. Less than thirteen months had elapsed since the disaster of Camden had seemed to destroy all hope of saving the State. All this change had been wrought by Greene’s magnificent generalship. Coming upon the scene under almost every imaginable disadvantage, he had reorganized the remnant of Gates’s broken and dispirited army, he had taken the initiative from the first, and he had held the game in his own hands till the last blow was struck. So consummate had been his strategy that, whether victorious or defeated on the field, he had, in every instance, gained the object for which the campaign was made. Under one disadvantage, indeed, he had not labored : he had excellent officers. Seldom has a more brilliant group been seen than that which comprised Morgan, Campbell, Marion, Sumter, Pickens, Otho Williams, William Washington, and the father of Robert Edward Lee. It is only an able general, however, who knows how to use such admirable instruments. Men of narrow intelligence do not like to have able men about them, and do not knowhow to deal with them. Gates had Kalb and Otho Williams, and put them in places where their talent was unavailable and one of them was uselessly sacrificed, while he was too dull to detect the extraordinary value of Marion. But genius is quick to see genius, and knows what to do with it. Greene knew what each one of his officers would do, and took it into the account in planning his sweeping movements. Unless he had known that he could depend upon Morgan as certainly as Napoleon, in after years, relied upon Davoust on the day of Jena and Auerstadt, it would have been foolhardy for him to divide his force in the beginning of the campaign, — a move which, though made in apparent violation of military rules, nevertheless gave him the initiative in his long and triumphant game. What Greene might have accomplished on a wider field and with more ample resources can never be known. But the intellectual qualities which he showed in his Southern campaign were those which have characterized some of the foremost strategists of modern times.
When Lord Cornwallis heard, from time to time, what was going on in South Carolina, he was not cheered by the news. But he was too far away to interfere, and it was on the very day of Eutaw Springs that the toils were drawn about him which were to compass his downfall. When he reached Petersburg, on the 20th of May, the youthful Lafayette, whom Washington had sent down to watch and check the movements of the traitor Arnold, was stationed at Richmond, with a little army of 3000 men, two thirds of them raw militia. To oppose this small force Cornwallis had now 5000 veterans, comprising the men whom he had brought away from Guilford, together with the forces lately under Arnold and Phillips. Arnold, after some useless burning and plundering, had been recalled to New York. Phillips had died of a fever just before Cornwallis arrived. The earl entertained great hopes. His failure in North Carolina rankled in his soul, and he was eager to make a grand stroke and retrieve his reputation. Could the powerful State of Virginia be conquered, it seemed as if everything south of the Susquehanna must fall, in spite of Greene’s successes. With his soul thus full of chivalrous enterprise, Cornwallis for the moment saw things in rose color, and drew wrong conclusions. He expected to find half the people Tories, and he also expected to find a state of chronic hostility between the slaves and their masters. On both points he was quite mistaken.
But while Cornwallis underrated the difficulty of the task, he knew, nevertheless, that 5000 men were not enough to conquer so strong a State, and he tried to persuade Clinton to abandon New York, if necessary, so that all the available British force might be concentrated upon Virginia. Clinton wisely refused. A State like Virginia, which, for the want of a loyalist party, could be held only by sheer conquest, was not fit for a basis of operations against the other States ; while the abandoning of New York, the recognized strategic centre of the Atlantic coast, would be interpreted by the whole world, not as a change of base, but as a confession of defeat. Clinton’s opinion was thus founded upon a truer and clearer view of the whole situation than Cornwallis’s ; nor is it likely that the latter would ever have urged such a scheme had he not been, in such a singular and unexpected way, elbowed out of North Carolina. Being now in Virginia, it was incumbent on him to do something, and, with the force at his disposal, it seemed as if he might easily begin by crushing Lafayette. “ The boy cannot escape me,” said Cornwallis ; but the young Frenchman turned out to be more formidable than was supposed. Lafayette has never been counted a great general, and, indeed, though a noble and interesting character, he was in no wise a man of original genius ; but he had much good sense, and was quick at learning. He was now twenty-three years old, buoyant and kind, full of wholesome enthusiasm, and endowed with no mean sagacity. A Fabian policy was all that could be adopted for the moment. When Cornwallis advanced from Petersburg to Richmond, Lafayette began the skillful retreat which proved him an apt learner in the school of Washington and Greene. From Richmond toward Fredericksburg — over the ground since made doubly famous by the deeds of Lee and Grant — the youthful general kept up his retreat, yet never giving the eager earl a chance to deal him a blow ; for, as with naive humor he wrote to Washington, “ I am not strong enough even to be beaten.” On the 4th of June Lafayette crossed the Rapidan at Ely’s Ford, and placed himself in a secure position; while Cornwallis, refraining from the pursuit, sent Tarleton on a raid westward to Charlottesville, to break up the legislature, which was in session there, and to capture the governor, Thomas Jefferson. The raid, though conducted with Tarleton’s usual vigor, failed of its principal prey ; for Jefferson, forewarned in the nick of time, got off to the mountains about twenty minutes before the cavalry surrounded his house at Monticello. It remained for Tarleton to seize the military stores collected at Albemarle ; but on the 7th of June Lafayetto effected a junction with 1000 Pennsylvania regulars under Wayne, and thereupon succeeded in placing his whole force between Tarleton and the prize he was striving to reach. Unable to break through this barrier, Tarleton had nothing left him but to rejoin Cornwallis ; and as Lafayette’s army was reinforced from various sources, until it amounted to more than 4000 men, he became capable of annoying the earl in such wise as to make him think it worth while to get nearer to the sea. Cornwallis, turning southwestward from the North Anna River, had proceeded as far inland as Point of Forks, when Tarleton joined him. On the 15th of June, the British commander, finding that he could not catch “ the boy,” and was accomplishing nothing by his marches and countermarches in the interior, retreated down the James River to Richmond. In so doing he did not yet put himself upon the defensive. Lafayette was still too weak to risk a battle, or to prevent his going wherever he liked. But Cornwallis was too prudent a general to remain at a long distance from his base of operations, among a people whom he had found, to his great disappointment, thoroughly hostile. By retreating to the seaboard, he could make sure of supplies and reinforcements, and might presently resume the work of invasion. Accordingly, on the 20th, he continued his retreat from Richmond, crossing the Chickahominy a little above White Oak Swamp, and marching down the York peninsula as far as Williamsburg. Lafayette, having been further reinforced by Steuben, so that his army numbered more than 5000, pressed closely on the rear of the British all the way down the peninsula; and on the 6th of July an action was fought between parts of the two armies, at Green Spring, near Williamsburg, in which the Americans were repulsed, with a loss of 145 men. The campaign was ended by the last week in July, when Cornwallis occupied Yorktown, adding the garrison of Portsmouth to his army, so that it numbered 7000 men, while Lafayette planted himself on Malvern Hill, and awaited further developments. Throughout this game of strategy, Lafayette had shown commendable skill, proving himself a worthy antagonist for the ablest of the British generals. But a far greater commander than either the Frenchman or the Englishman was now to enter unexpectedly upon the scene. The elements of the catastrophe were prepared, and it it only remained for a master hand to strike the blow.
As early as the 22d of May, just two days before the beginning of this Virginia campaign, Washington had held a conference with Rochambeau at Wethersfield, in Connecticut, and it was there decided that a combined attack should be made upon New York by the French and American armies. If they should succeed in taking the city, it would ruin the British cause; and, at all events, it was hoped that if New York were seriously threatened Sir Henry Clinton would take reinforcements from Cornwallis, and thus relieve the pressure upon the Southern States. In order to undertake the capture of New York, it would be necessary to have the aid of a powerful French fleet ; and the time had at last arrived when such assistance was confidently to be expected. The naval war between France and England in the West Indies had now raged for two years, with varying fortunes. The French government had exerted itself to the utmost, and early in the spring of this year had sent out a magnificent fleet of twenty-eight ships-of-the-line and six frigates, carrying 1700 guns and 20,000 men, commanded by Count de Grasse, one of the ablest of the French admirals. It was designed to take from England the great island of Jamaica; but as the need for naval coöperation upon the North American coast had been strongly urged upon the French ministry, Grasse was ordered to communicate with Washington and Rochambeau, and to seize the earliest opportunity of acting in concert with them.
The arrival of this fleet would introduce a feature into the war such as had not existed at any time since hostilities had begun. It would interrupt the British control over the water. The utmost force the British were ready to oppose to it amounted only to nineteen shipsof-the-line, carrying 1400 guns and 13,000 men, and this disparity was too great to be surmounted by anything short of the genius of a Nelson. The conditions of the struggle were thus about to be suddenly and decisively altered. The retreat of Cornwallis upon Yorktown had been based entirely upon the assumption of that British naval supremacy which had hitherto been uninterrupted. The safety of his position depended wholly upon the ability of the British fleet to control the Virginia waters. Once let the French get the upper hand there, and the earl, if assailed in front by an overwhelming land force, would be literally “ between the devil and the deep sea.” He would be no better off than Burgoyne in the forests of northern New York.
It was not yet certain, however, where Grasse would find it best to strike the coast. The elements of the situation disclosed themselves but slowly, and it required the master mind of Washington to combine them. Intelligence traveled at snail’s pace in those days, and operations so vast in extent were not within the compass of anything but the highest military genius. It took ten days for Washington to hear from Lafayette, and it took a month for him to hear from Greene, while there was no telling just when definite information would arrive from Grasse. But so soon as Washington heard from Greene, in April, how he had manœuvred Cornwallis up into Virginia, he began secretly to consider the possibility of leaving a small force to guard the Hudson, while taking the bulk of his army southward to overwhelm Cornwallis. At the Wethersfield conference, he spoke of this to Rochambeau, but to no one else ; and a dispatch to Grasse gave him the choice of sailing either for the Hudson or for the Chesapeake. So matters stood till the middle of August, while Washington, grasping all the elements of the problem, vigilantly watched the whole field, holding himself in readiness for either alternative, — to strike New York close at hand, or to hurl his army to a distance of four hundred miles. On the 14th of August a message came from Grasse that he was just starting from the West Indies for Chesapeake Bay, with his whole fleet, and hoped that whatever the armies had to do might be done quickly, as he should be obliged to return to the West Indies by the middle of October. Washington could now couple with this the information, just received from Lafayette, that Cornwallis had established himself at Yorktown, where he had deep water on three sides of him, and a narrow neck in front.
The supreme moment of Washington’s military career had come, — the moment for realizing a conception which had nothing of a Fabian character about it, for it was a conception of the same order as those in which Cæsar and Napoleon dealt. He decided at once to transfer his army to Virginia and overwhelm Cornwallis. He had everything in readiness. The army of Rochambeau had marched through Connecticut, and joined him on the Hudson in July. He could afford to leave West Point with a comparatively small force, for that strong fortress could be taken only by a regular siege, and he had planned his march so as to blind Sir Henry Clinton completely. This was one of the finest points in Washington’s scheme, in which the perfection of the details matched the audacious grandeur of the whole. Sir Henry was profoundly unconscious of any such movement as Washington was about to execute; but he was anxiously looking out for an attack upon New York. Now, from the American headquarters near West Point, Washington could take his army more than half-way through New Jersey without arousing any suspicion at all ; for the enemy would be sure to interpret such a movement as preliminary to an occupation of Staten Island, as a point from which to assail New York. Sir Henry knew that the French fleet might be expected at any moment; but he had not the clue which Washington held, and his anxious thoughts were concerned with New York harbor, and not with Chesapeake Bay. Besides all this, the sheer audacity of the movement served still further to screen its true meaning. It would take some time for the enemy to comprehend so huge a sweep as that from New York to Virginia, and doubtless Washington could reach Philadelphia before his purpose could be fathomed.
The events justified his foresight. On the 19th of August, five days after receiving the dispatch from Grasse, Washington’s army crossed the Hudson at King’s Ferry, and began its adventurous march. Lord Stirling was left with a small force at Saratoga, and General Heath, with 4000 men, remained at West Point. Washington took with him southward 2000 Continentals and 4000 Frenchmen. It was the only time during the war that French and American land forces marched together, save on the occasion of the disastrous attack upon Savannah. None save Washington and Rochambeau knew whither they were going. So precious was the secret that even the general officers supposed, until New Brunswick was passed, that their destination was Staten Island. So rapid was the movement that, however much the men might have begun to wonder, they had reached Philadelphia before the purpose of the expedition was distinctly understood.
As the army marched through the streets of Philadelphia, there was an outburst of exulting hope. The plan could no longer be concealed. Congress was informed of it, and a fresh light shone upon the people, already elated by the news of Greene’s career of triumph. The windows were thronged with fair ladies, who threw sweet flowers on the dusty soldiers as they passed, while the welkin rang with shouts, anticipating the great deliverance that was so soon to come. The column of soldiers, in the loose order adapted to its swift march, was nearly two miles in length. First came the war-worn Americans, clad in rough toggery, which eloquently told the story of the meagre resources of a country without a government. Then followed the gallant Frenchmen, clothed in gorgeous trappings, such as could be provided by a government which at that time took three fourths of the earnings of its people in unrighteous taxation. There was some parading of these soldiers before the president of Congress, but time was precious. Washington, in his eagerness galloping on to Chester, received and sent back the joyful intelligence that Grasse had arrived in Chesapeake Bay, and then the glee of the people knew no bounds. Bands of music played in the streets, every house hoisted its stars - and - stripes, and all the roadside taverns shouted success to the bold general. “ Long live Washington ! ” was the toast of the day. “ He has gone to catch Cornwallis in his mousetrap ! ”
But these things did not stop for a moment the swift advance of the army. It was on the 1st of September that they left Trenton behind them, and by the 5th they had reached the head of Chesapeake Bay, whence they were conveyed in ships, and reached the scene of action, near Yorktown, by the 18th.
Meanwhile, all things had been working together most auspiciously. On the 31st of August the great French squadron had arrived on the scene, and the only Englishman capable of defeating it, under the existing odds, was far away. Admiral Rodney’s fleet had followed close upon its heels from the West Indies, but Rodney himself was not in command. He had been taken ill suddenly, and had sailed for England, and Sir Samuel Hood commanded the fleet. Hood outsailed Grasse, passed him on the ocean without knowing it, looked in at the Chesapeake on the 25th of August, and, finding no enemy there, sailed on to New York to get instructions from Admiral Graves, who commanded the naval force in the North. This was the first that Graves or Clinton knew of the threatened danger. Not a moment was to be lost. The winds were favorable, and Graves, now chief-in-command, crowded sail for the Chesapeake, and arrived on the 5th of September, the very day on which Washington’s army was embarking at the head of the great bay. Graves found the French fleet blocking the entrance to the bay, and instantly attacked it. A decisive naval victory for the British would at this moment have ruined everything. But after a sharp fight of two hours’ duration, in which some 700 men were killed and wounded on the two fleets, Admiral Graves withdrew. Three of his ships were badly damaged, and after manœuvring for four days he returned, baffled and despondent, to New York, leaving Grasse in full possession of the Virginia waters. The toils were thus fast closing around Lord Cornwallis. He knew nothing as yet of Washington’s approach, but there was just a chance that he might realize his danger, and, crossing the James River, seek safety in a retreat upon North Carolina. Lafayette forestalled this solitary chance. Immediately upon the arrival of the French squadron, the troops of the Marquis de Saint-Simon, 3000 in number, had been set on shore and added to Lafayette’s army; and with this increased force, now amounting to more than 8000 men, “ the boy ” came down on the 7th of September, and took his stand across the neck of the peninsula at Williamsburg, cutting off Cornwallis’s retreat.
Thus, on the morning of the 8th, the very day on which Greene, in South Carolina, was fighting his last battle at Eutaw Springs, Lord Cornwallis, in Virginia, found himself surrounded. The door of the mousetrap was shut. Still, but for the arrival of Washington, the plan would probably have failed. It was still in Cornwallis’s power to burst the door open. His force was nearly equal to Lafayette’s in numbers, and better in quality, for Lafayette’s contained 3000 militia. Cornwallis carefully reconnoitred the American lines, and seriously thought of breaking through; but the risk was considerable, and heavy loss was inevitable. He had not the slightest inkling of Washington’s movements, and he believed that Graves would soon return with force enough to drive away Grasse’s blockading squadron. So he decided to wait before striking a hazardous blow. It was losing his last chance. On the 14th Washington reached Lafayette’s headquarters, and took command. On the 18th the Northern army began arriving in detachments, and by the 26th it was all concentrated at Williamsburg, more than 16,000 strong. The problem was Solved. The surrender of Cornwallis was only a question of time. It was the great military surprise of the Revolutionary War. Had any one predicted, eight months before, that Washington on the Hudson and Cornwallis on the Catawaba, eight hundred miles apart, would so soon come together and terminate the war on the coast of Virginia, he would have been thought a wild prophet indeed. For thoroughness of elaboration and promptness of execution, the movement, on Washington’s part, was as remarkable as the march of Napoleon in the autumn of 1805, when he swooped from the shore of the English Channel into Bavaria, and captured the Austrian army at Ulm.
By the 2d of September, Sir Henry Clinton, learning that the American army had reached the Delaware, and coupling with this the information he had got from Admiral Hood, began to suspect the true nature of Washington’s movement, and was at his wit’s end. The only thing he could think of was to make a counterstroke on the coast of Connecticut, and he accordingly detached Benedict Arnold with 2000 men to attack New London. This was a thoroughly wanton assault, for it did not and could not produce the slightest effect upon the movements of Washington. By the time the news of it had reached Virginia the combination against Cornwallis had been completed, and day by day the lines were drawn more closely about the doomed army. Yorktown was invested, and on the 6th of October the first parallel was opened by General Lincoln. On the 11th, the second parallel, within three hundred yards of the enemy’s works, was opened by Steuben. On the night of the 14th Alexander Hamilton and the Baron de Viomenil carried two of the British redoubts by storm. On the next night the British made a gallant but fruitless sortie. By noon of the 16th their works were fast crumbling to pieces, under the fire of seventy cannon. On the 17th — the fourth anniversary of Burgoyne’s surrender — Cornwallis hoisted the white flag. The terms of the surrender were like those of Lincoln’s at Charleston. The British army became prisoners of war, subject to the ordinary rules of exchange. The only delicate question related to the American loyalists in the army, whom Cornwallis felt it wrong to leave in the lurch. This point was neatly disposed of by allowing him to send a ship to Sir Henry Clinton, with news of the catastrophe, and to embark in it such troops as he might think proper to send to New York, and no questions asked. On a little matter of etiquette the Americans were more exacting. The practice of playing the enemy’s tunes had always been cherished as an inalienable prerogative of British soldiery ; and at the surrender of Charleston, in token of humiliation, General Lincoln’s army had been expressly forbidden to play any but an American tune. Colonel Laurens, who now conducted the negotiations, directed that Lord Cornwallis’s sword should be received by General Lincoln, and that the army, on marching out to lay down its arms, should play a British or a German air. There was no help for it; and on the 19th of October, Cornwallis’s army, 7247 in number, with 840 seamen, marched out, with colors furled and cased, while the band played a quaint old English melody, of which the significant title was The World Turned Upside Down !
On the very same day that Cornwallis surrendered. Sir Henry Clinton, having received naval reinforcements, sailed from New York with twenty-five shipsof-the-line and ten frigates, and 7000 of his best troops. Five days brought him to the mouth of the Chesapeake, where he learned that he was too late, as had been the case four years before, when he tried to relieve Burgoyne. A fortnight earlier, this force could hardly have failed to alter the result, for the fleet was strong enough to dispute with Grasse the control over the coast. The French have always taken to themselves the credit of the victory of Yorktown. In the palace of Versailles there is a room the walls of which are covered with huge paintings depicting the innumerable victories of France, from the days of Chlodwig to those of Napoleon. Near the end of the long series, the American visitor cannot fail to notice a scene which is labeled “ Bataille de Yorcktown ” (misspelled, as is the Frenchman’s wont in dealing with the words of outer barbarians), in which General Rochambeau occupies the most commanding position, while General Washington is perforce contented with a subordinate place. This is not correct history, for the glory of conceiving and conducting the movement undoubtedly belongs to Washington. But it should never be forgotten, not only that the 4000 men of Rochambeau and the 3000 of Saint-Simon were necessary for the successful execution of the plan, but also that without the formidable fleet of Grasse the plan could not even have been made. How much longer the war might have dragged out its tedious length, or what might have been its final issue, without this timely assistance, can never be known ; and our debt of gratitude to France for her aid on this supreme occasion is something which cannot be too heartily acknowledged.
Early on a dark morning of the fourth week in October, an honest old German, slowly pacing the streets of Philadelphia on his night-watch, began shouting, “ Basht dree o’glock, und Gornvallis ish dakendt! ” and light sleepers sprang out of bed and threw up their windows. Washington’s courier laid the dispatches before Congress in the forenoon, and after dinner a service of prayer and thanksgiving was held in the Lutheran Church. At New Haven and Cambridge the students sang triumphal hymns, and every village green in the country was ablaze with bonfires. The Duke de Lauzun sailed for France in a swift ship, and on the 27th of November all the houses in Paris were illuminated, and the aisles of Notre Dame resounded with the Te Deum. At noon of November 25th the news was brought to Lord George Germaine, at his house in Pall Mall. Getting into a cab, he drove hastily to the Lord Chancellor’s house in Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, and took him in ; and then they drove to Lord North’s office in Downing Street. At the staggering news, all the Prime Minister’s wonted gayety forsook him. He walked wildly up and down the room, throwing his arms about and crying, “O God! it is all over! it is all over ! it is all over ! ” A dispatch was sent to the king at Kew, and when Lord George received the answer that evening, at dinner, he observed that his Majesty wrote calmly, but had forgotten to date his letter, — a thing which had never happened before.
“ The tidings,” says Wraxall, who narrates these incidents, “ were calculated to diffuse a gloom over the most convivial society, and opened a wide field for political speculation.” There were many people in England, however, who looked at the matter differently from Lord North. This crushing defeat was just what the Duke of Richmond, at the beginning of the war, had publicly declared he hoped for. Charles Fox always took especial delight in reading about the defeats of invading armies, from Marathon and Salamis downward ; and over the news of Cornwallis’s surrender he leaped from his chair and clapped his hands. In a debate in Parliament, four months before, the youthful William Pitt had denounced the American war as “ most accursed, wicked, barbarous, cruel, unnatural, unjust, and diabolical,” which led Burke to observe, “ He is not a chip of the old block ; he is the old block itself! ”
The fall of Lord North’s ministry, and with it the overthrow of the personal government of George III., was now close at hand. For a long time the government had been losing favor. In the summer of 1780 the British victories in South Carolina had done something to Strengthen it; yet when, in the autumn of that year, Parliament was dissolved, although the king complained that his expenses for purposes of corruption had been twice as great as ever before, the new Parliament was scarcely more favorable to the ministry than the old one. Misfortunes and perplexities crowded in the path of Lord North and his colleagues. The example of American resistance had told upon Ireland, and it was in the full tide of that agitation which is associated with the names of Flood and Grattan that the news of Cornwallis’s surrender was received. For more than a year there had been war in India, where Hyder Ali, for the moment, was carrying everything before him. France, eager to regain her lost foothold upon Hindustan, sent a strong armament thither, and insisted that England must give up all her Indian conquests except Bengal. For a moment England’s great Eastern empire tottered, and was saved only by the superhuman exertions of Warren Hastings, aided by the wonderful military genius of Sir Eyre Coote. In May, 1781, the Spaniards had taken Pensacola, thus driving the British from their last position in Florida. In February, 1782, the Spanish fleet captured Minorca, and the siege of Gibraltar, which had been kept up for nearly three years, was pressed with redoubled energy. During the winter the French recaptured St. Eustatius, and handed it over to Holland; and Grasse’s great fleet swept away all the British possessions in the West Indies, except Jamaica, Barbadoes, and Antigua. All this time the Northern League kept up its jealous watch upon British cruisers in the narrow seas, and among all the powers of Europe the government of George III. could not find a single friend.
The maritime supremacy of England was, however, impaired but for a moment. Rodney was sent back to the West Indies, and on the 12th of April, 1782, his fleet of thirty-six ships encountered the French near the island of Sainte-Marie-Galante. The battle of eleven hours which ensued, and in which 5000 men were killed or wounded, was one of the most tremendous contests ever witnessed upon the ocean before the time of Nelson. The French were totally defeated, and Grasse was taken prisoner, — the first French commander-in-chief, by sea or land, who had fallen into an enemy’s hands since Marshal Tallard gave up his sword to Marlborough, on the terrible day of Blenheim. France could do nothing to repair this crushing disaster. Her naval power was eliminated from the situation at a single blow ; and in the course of the summer the English achieved another great success by overthrowing the Spaniards at Gibraltar, after a struggle which, for dogged tenacity, is scarcely paralleled in the annals of modern warfare. By the autumn of 1782, England, defeated in the United States, remained victorious and defiant as regarded the other parties to the war.
But these great successes came too late to save the doomed ministry of Lord North. After the surrender of Cornwallis, no one but the king thought of pursuing the war in America any further. Even he gave up all hope of subduing the United States; but he insisted upon retaining the State of Georgia, with the cities of Charleston and New York ; and he vowed that, rather than acknowledge the independence of the United States, he would abdicate the throne and retire to Hanover. Lord George Germaine was dismissed from office, Sir Henry Clinton was superseded by Sir Guy Carleton, and the king began to dream of a new campaign. But his obstinacy was of no avail. During the winter and spring, General Wayne, acting under Greene’s orders, drove the British from Georgia, while at home the country squires began to go over to the opposition ; and Lord North, utterly discouraged and disgusted, refused any longer to pursue a policy of which he disapproved. The baffled and beaten king, like the fox in the fable, declared that the Americans were a wretched set of knaves, and he was glad to be rid of them. The House of Commons began to talk of a vote of censure on the administration. A motion of Conway’s, petitioning the king to stop the war, was lost by only a single vote ; and at last, on the 20th of March, 1782, Lord North bowed to the storm, and resigned. The two sections of the Whig party coalesced. Lord Rockingham became Prime Minister, and with him came into office Shelburne, Camden, and Grafton, as well as Fox and Conway, the Duke of Richmond, and Lord John Cavendish, — stanch friends of America all of them, whose appointment involved the recognition of the independence of the United States.
Lord North observed that he had often been accused of issuing lying bulletins, but he had never told so big a lie as that with which the new ministry announced its entrance into power; for in introducing the name of each of these gentlemen, the official bulletin used the words, “ His Majesty has been pleased to appoint ” ! It was indeed a day of bitter humiliation for George III., and the men who had been his tools. But it was a day of happy omen for the English race, in the Old World as well as in the New. For the advent of Lord Rockingham’s ministry meant not merely the independence of the United States; it meant the downfall of the only serious danger with which English liberty has been threatened since the expulsion of the Stuarts. The personal government which George III. had sought to establish, with its wholesale corruption, its shameless violations of public law, and its attacks upon freedom of speech and of the press, became irredeemably discredited, and tottered to its fall; while the great England of William III., of Walpole, of Chatham, of the younger Pitt, of Peel, and of Gladstone was set free to pursue its noble career. Such was the priceless boon which the younger nation, by its sturdy insistence upon the principles of political justice, conferred upon the elder. The decisive battle of freedom in England as well as in America, and in all that vast colonial world for which Chatham prophesied the dominion of the future, had now been fought and won. And foremost in accomplishing this glorious work had been the lofty genius of Washington, and the steadfast valor of the men who suffered with him at Valley Forge, and whom he led to victory at Yorktown.