Memoirs of the War in the Southern Department, Volume One
Henry Lee


[1] “Often have I heard,” says Sallust, “that Quintus Maximus, Publius Scipio, and other renowned men of our commonweath, used to say that whenever they beheld the images of their ancestors, they felt their minds vehemently excited to virtue. It could not be the wax or the marble which possessed this power; but the recollection of their great actions kindled a generous flame in their breasts, not to be quelled, till they also by virtue had acquired equal fame and glory.”


British force
under sir William Howe in 1776.
   American force
under general Washington.
August24,000  16,000
November26,900  4,500
December27,700  3,300
In 1777.
March27,000  4,500
June30,000  8,000

Force under sir William Howe, when he landed at Elkton, horse, foot, and artillery, amounted, in toto, to 18,000.

Force under general Washington at the battle of Brandywine, including militia, 15,000.

At which time the British force in Rhode Island and New York, under sir Henry Clinton, was 12,000.

And the American force under general Putnam at West Point, &c, exclusive of militia, which he was authorized to call to him as he chose, from the states of Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey, 2,000.

Force under lieutenant general Burgoyne, excluding Canadians and Indians, 7,000.

Force under major general Gates (continentals)

militia 4,129
total 13,129

See Appendix, A and B.

[3] Brigadier general Starke had fortunately reached Bennington with a body of militia from New Hampshire, where was established a depot of provisions for the use of the northern army, at the time lieutenant colonel Baum made his appearance with 500 Germans. Starke, uniting his militia to the remains (200) of a continental regiment under colonel Warner, judiciously decided to strike Baum before he could complete intrenchments, begun for the purpose of strengthening his position. The assault was, immediate and vigorous; and the enemy was completely routed, most of the detachment being killed, wounded and taken. Starke’s conduct was not only verified by his success, but by the disclosure that a reinforcement under lieutenant colonel Brecknam was hastening to join Baum. The united force under Starke amounted to 2,000.

[4] This important operation was conducted by sir Henry Clinton, second in command of the British army. He left New York early in October ut the head of 3,000 men; and by masterly manœuvres entirely deceived general Putnam, the American commmander. On the 6th he carried the forts Clinton and Montgomery by storm, which produced the immediate evacuation of the forts Independence and Constitution. Thus with an inferior force did the British general in a few days dispossess us of the Hudson river, believed to have been in a condition impregnable to any force then at the enemy’s disposal. The military conduct of sir Henry, during this expedition, carried with it manifestations of genius far above the common order; but he stained his laurels, so gallantly won, by the cruel conflagration of the defenceless town of Esopus, then the depot of women and children.

[5] The expedition of sir Henry Clinton up the North river no doubt induced general Gates to admit, in the convention, the article which stipulated that the captive army should not serve against the United States until exchanged, and should be permitted in the mean time to return to England. Nevertheless the army of Burgoyne never did return to England, congress having for the first time stifled the fair claims of its enemy, under color of pretences as frivolous as was the detention of the army unjustifiable. There was a very great disproportion of force. Gates’ army consisted of 9,000 continental troops, and 4,060 militia; while that under Burgoyne amounted to 5,700 by the official statement of the number surrendered, which of course includes persons of every description. The British general rated his fighting force at 3,500, and that of Gates may be fairly estimated, including militia, at 8,500.

[6] Properly so termed, whether we regard its natural difficulties, or its military importance. The high lands begin their ascent a little above King’s Ferry on the Hudson, forty miles up the river from New York, communicating between Stony and Verplank’s Point. In Pennsylvania and Maryland the same ridge of mountains is known by the name of the North Mountain, being the only one which passes through all the northern states. Continuing south, the Allegany, misnamed the back-bone of Anglican America, absolutely sinks, before it reaches the southern limit of Virginia, into the North mountain, or Blue Ridge. This spot, of precipice linked to prceipice, now and then separated by a fissure admitting the pass of men in single file, rugged, sharp and steep, was selected by Washington to hold safe the possession of the upper Hudson, indispensable to the free egress and regress between the north and the south; without which, military resistance could not be upheld. This mountainous region is computed to be twenty miles in breadth, alike rugged and impenetrable on both sides of the river near its margin. About midway, on its eastern bank, is Antony’s Nose, 363 yards perpendicularly high; and opposite to it, 123 feet above the level of the river, is a spur of the mountain, with table land on its summit sufficient for the erection of works, separated from another spur by Preploap’s kill or creek, (kill is the Dutch word for creek) presenting the same facility. Both these tops were fortified: the first called Fort Clinton, after the respectable and zealous governor of the state of New York; and the last named Montgomery, after the hero of Quebec.

Antony’s Nose, in its first step of ascent, is washed by Peekskill, which falls into the Hudson, on the northern banks of which was erected Fort Independence; and six or seven miles above the Nose, towards the declivity of the high lands, is Fort Constitution. These were our land defences.

In the river, between the water projection of the spur on whose summit stood fort Clinton, and the base of Antony’s Nose, here perpendicular, was sunk a boom of mountain timber fastened together by all the ligaments of art, ponderous and durable. In front of which was affixed to the rocky base of the mountain, on each side of the river, an iron chain nearly sixty tons in weight, whose every link was two inches and a half square, and which in its sweep across the river presented its point to the enemy in the channel. Behind the boom rode two frigates, two galleys, and a sloop of war, commensurate with the theatre of action. Thus were we prepared by water.

All the defiles, narrow and difficult as they were by nature, were made more difficult by the rolling of rocks into them, and by felling trees across them, over and through which the assailant must clamber and creep for many miles before he could present himself to our works.

This assemblage of defences is known among us by the designation of West Point, and constituted the primary object of Washington’s care during the War.

[7] Washington was quickly informed of the separation of the enemy’s columns, as he was subsequently informed not only of its continuance, but that the left column was making a very circuitous sweep. Persuaded of the fact, he wisely determined to pass the Brandywine with his whole force and strike at Knyphausen. In the very act of giving his orders to this effect, colonel Bland, of the Virginia horse, brought him intelligence which very much obscured, if it did not contradict, the previous information; and the original judicious decision was abandoned. Colonel Bland was noble, sensible, honorable, and amiable; but never intended for the department of military intelligence. The third regiment of Virginia, first Mercer’s, who fell covered with glory at Princeton; next Weedon’s, now Marshall’s, exhibited an example worthy of itself, its country, and its leader. Already high in reputation from the gallant stand made by one battalion under major Leitch on York Island, when supporting the brave tolonel Knowlton in the first check given to the enemy, flushed with his victory of Long Island, in which check Knowlton was killed and Leitch mortally wounded, having received three balls successively through his body, at the head of his victorious battalion; from its firmness on our retreat through New Jersey, from its intrepidity at Trenton, and its valor at Princeton, now surpassed its pristine fame. Our loss amounted to 300 killed, 600 wounded, and 400 prisoners, chiefly wounded. Major general marquis de la Fayette and brigadier Woodward were wounded. Sir William Howe stated in his official report the British loss to be only 100 killed, and 400 wounded. The vanquished army will always suffer most.

[8] Father of chief justice Marshall.

[9] It is worthy of remark that Howe was but eighteen miles from Philadelphia; and Washington, who reached Chester on the night of the battle, was sixteen miles distant, the Delaware on his right, the Schuylkill in his front, and his enemy on his left. Was it not surprising that the British general did not perceive and seize the advantage, so plainly before him, by a forced march as soon as his troops had snatched food and rest?

[10] Among the many and afflicting disadvantages imposed on the American general, the insufficiency of the implements covering our powder, was not the least. There existed another ground of disparity, which continued nearly to the end of the war—inferiority of arms. Some of our musketry were without bayonets; and not a single brigade had muskets of the same caliber; by which means, a corps expending its ammunition, could not use that of an adjoining corps. The latter deficiency is imputable to our poverty, as arms in that stage of the war could only be procured by purchase from abroad; but the former is justly to be ascribed to the criminal supineness of our contractors, as we abounded in good leather and good workmen.

[11] The celebrated Alexander Hamilton.

[12] Henry Lee, afterwards lieutenant colonel Lee of the legion cavalry.

[13] The fire of cavalry is at best innocent, especially in quick motion, as was then the case. The strength and activity of the horse, the precision and celerity of evolution, the adroitness of the rider, boot-top to boot-top, and the keen edge of the sabre, with fitness of ground, and skill in the leader, constitute their vast power, so often decisive in the day of battle.

[14] The congress was composed of deputies from the several states, and resembled more a diplomatic corps executing the will of the sovereign, than the sovereign commanding the execution of its will. It cannot excite surprise to the reflecting reader, that our finances, under such auspices, soon sunk.

[15] It is natural for the inhabitants of the same country to feel for the losses and injuries of any portion of their countrymen from the operations of a common enemy. This influence is accompanied by a disposition to criminate him who may be intrusted with the direction of the means of protection, sharpened by an indisposition to retribute those who lose by not receiving that protection however sirongly called for by equity. To save New York, our second, if not first town, was the wish of all; and Washington, sharing in this feeling with his fellow citizens, seems to have indulged his inclination too far upon this occasion. After various marches and manœuvres, and some loss, the erroneous plan was concluded by the fall of Fort Washington, with a numerous garrison, whose aid in the field could ill be spared.

[16] The left column was under the order of major general Greene. Some attempts at that time were made to censure that officer; but they were too feeble to attract notice, when levelled at a general whose uniform conduct had already placed him high in the confidence of his chief and of the army.

[17] Besides the ninth regiment, but few prisoners were taken. The whole amounted to 400, which, added to our killed and wounded, gave a total of 1000.

[18] Colonel Musgrave and the fortieth regiment received the cordial thanks of sir William Howe, and were held up to the army as an example for imitation. Nor was the applause, which was lavishly bestowed upon Musgrave, restricted to America. It resounded in Great Britain; and the successful colonel received a letter from the British monarch, expressing his sense of his meritorious conduct.

[19] Congress voted their thanks to the general and army, expressing without reserve their approbation of the plan of battle, and of the courage exhibited on the occasion.

[20] Lieutenant colonel Simms, after passing the Delaware below Bristol, arrived, with the detachment under his command, at Moore’s Town, eight miles from Cooper’s ferry, opposite Philadelphia, about ten o’clock at night. He was informed that a detachment of the enemy were crossing at that ferry; the safety of his detachment required that he should acertain whether the enemy were actually crossing the Delaware or not; and he immediately, with a small escort of dragoons, proceeded with great circumspection to the ferry, and found that the information he had received was not true; nor could he discover any movement of troops in the city. A party of militia were posted at the ferry, whom lieutenant colonel Simms found asleep; being roused and informed of their danger from such negligence, they providentially escaped certain destruction; for before the dawn of day, the van of Donop’s corps had landed with hope of striking them.


In congress, November 4, 1777.

Resolved, that congress have a high sense of the merit of colonel Greene, and the officers and men under his command, in their late gallant defence of the fort at Red Bank on Delaware river, and that an elegant sword be provided by the board of war, and presented to colonel Greene.

Extract from the minutes.

War office of the United States.

New York, June 7, 1786.


I have the honour to transmit to you, the son and legal representative of the late memorable and gallant colonel Greene, the sword directed to be presented to him by the resolve of congress of the 4th November 1777.

The repulse and defeat of the Germans, at the fort of Red Bank on the Delaware, is justly considered as one of the most brilliant actions of the late war. The glory of that event is inseparably attached to the memory of your late father and his brave garrison. The manner in which the supreme authority of the United States are pleased to express their high sense of his military merit, and the honourable instrument which they annex in testimony thereof, must be peculiarly precious to a son emulative of his father’s virtues.

The circumstances of the war prevented the obtaining and delivery of the sword previous to your father’s being killed at Croton river in the year 1780. On that catastrophe his country mourned the sacrifice of a patriot and soldier, and mingled its tears with those of his family.

That the patriotic and military virtues of your honourable father may influence your conduct in every case in which your country may require your services is the sincere wish of Your most obedient and very humble servant,

H. Knox.

Job Greene, Esq.

[22] A small detachment was landed on Province Island with a view to expel the enemy engaged in erecting this battery. Major Vatap, who commanded the British covering party, abandoned most shamefully the artillery, which was however retaken by a subaltern officer. The above is stated by Mr, Stedman, whose history of the American war is marked by an invariable disposition to record the truth. I believe it is the single instance of dastardly conduct among the British officers during the war. Vatap belonged to the tenth regiment, and was obliged to quit the service and sell out below the regulated price.

[23] Now general Samuel Smith of Maryland, and senator of the United States.

[24] Glover’s brigade, the van of the northern reinforcement, did not, as was expected, reach major general Greene; whereas lord Cornwallis united to his corps a reinforcement lately arrived in the river from New York.

[25] Washington, on receiving; intelligence of Howe’s retreat, said, “Better would it have been for sir William Howe to have fought without victory than thus to declare his inability.”

[26] After sir William Howe returned home, a parliamentary inquiry was made into his conduct upon a motion of his brother, admiral lord Howe, which in a little while dropped. It plainly appears, from the documents exhibited, that sir William Howe’s plans were cordially adopted by the minister, and that he was as cordially supported by government in whatever he desired.—See parliamentary debates for 1779.

[27] The honor conferred upon colonel Prescot was only a promotion in the army soon after established; and this, the writer was informed by a gentleman residing in Boston who was well acquainted with colonel Prescot, consisted only in the grade of lieutenant colonel, in a regiment of infantry. Considering himself entitled to a regiment, the hero of Breed’s Hill would not accept a second station. Warren, who fell nobly supporting the action, was the favorite of the day, and has engrossed the fame due to Prescot. Bunker’s Hill too has been considered as the field of battle, when it is well known that it was fought upon Breed’s Hill, the nearest of the two hills to Boston. No man reveres the character of Warren more than the writer; and he considers himself not only, by his obedience to truth, doing justice to colonel Prescot, but performing an acceptable service to the memory of the illustrious Warren, who, being a really great man, woUld disdain to wear laurels not his own.

[28] Sir Henry Clinton had served in the war of 1755 under prince Ferdinand; into whose family he was introduced, and continued as aid-de-camp to the prince throughout the war, highly respected and esteemed.

[29] The enemy having united his columns on the heights of Middletown, an attempt to dislodge him would have been blind temerity. Had sir Henry Clinton not possessed this vast advantage, the victory would have been improved; and in any other period of the retreat might have been made decisive in all probability.

General Lee, in a letter dated Englishtown, June 28th, gives the following account of the battle of Monmouth.

“What the devil brought us into this level country, (the very element of the enemy) or what interest we can have (in our present circumstances) to hazard an action, somebody else must tell you, for I cannot. I was yesterday ordered (for it was against my opinion and inclination) to engage. I did, with my division, which consisted of about four thousand men. The troops, both men and officers, showed the greatest valor: the artillery did wonders; but we were outnumbered; particularly in cavalry, which was, at twenty different times, on the point of turning completely our flanks. This consideration naturally obliged us to retreat; but the retreat did us, I will venture to say, great honor. It was performed with all the order and coolness which can be seen on a common field day. Not a man or officer hastened his step, but one regiment regularly filed off from the front to the rear of the other. The thanks I received from his excellency were of a singular nature. I can demonstrate that had I not acted as I did, that this army, and perhaps America, would have been ruined.”

[30] The southern department comprehended Virginia, the two Carolinas, and Georgia, lately Maryland and Delaware were added. See Appendix, C.

[31] General Howe joined the main army under the commander in chief, where he served to the end of the war. A court of inquiry was held to investigate the cause of his defeat before Savannah, who reported favorably to the major general.

Copy of a letter to general Washington on southern affairs.

Philadelphia April 28th, 1779.


The inclosed letter from the lieutenant governor of South Carolina, committed to the consideration of a committee of three, and which, in the name of the committee, I have now the honor to inclose your excellency, will show you the extremity to which our affairs in that quarter are driving. The committee find a choice of difficulties in this business, because the reliance on militia from Virginia having in a great degree failed, there appears no remedy but such as will lessen the force you had a right to expect from Virginia for reinforcing the main army. We have no reason to suppose that a greater force than fourteen hundred militia, perhaps not more than one thousand, will go from North Carolina; and of the one thousand ordered by the government of Virginia, we learn that not more than three hundred and fifty have been obtained. In this state of things, the committee submit, to your excellency’s wisdom and better knowledge of the general state of military affairs and intended operations, the following measures. That the two thousand new recruits now in Virginia be forthwith regimented and ordered to join the southern army; that a sum of money be sent to colonel Bland, with orders to re-enhst the men of his regiment, and proceed without delay to the same destination, with his battalions of light horse. If, sir, this plan should meet your approbation, the committee are of opinion, that the sooner it were carried into execution the better.

Your excellency will be pleased to return the inclosed letter; and the committee wish to be favored with your opinion of the eligibility of this measure, and if there is a probability of its being soon executed; or what additional or other method may occur to your excellency for the relief of the southern states, which we find by conversing with general Howe, (who has just arrived here) demands speedy and powerful assistance. I have the honor to be, with the highest sentiments of esteem and regard, sir, Your Excellency’s most obedient and very humble servant,


[32] “Continentals” mean regular soldiers enlisted and paid under the authority of congress. The continental troops had not seen service, being composed of the line of the Carolinas and Georgia, with the exception of the gallant defenders of Fort Moultrie in 1776.

[33] Ramsey calls him colonel Elbert.

[34] Military history abounds with examples illustrating the preciousness of a few hours. It seems unaccountable that, nevertheless, the salutary counsel to be drawn from its instructive page is seldom regarded. General Prevost consumed the time in deliberating upon his measures which, properly used, would have secured his success. The moment he began to doubt, he was lost. Hannibal, the prince of war, is charged with having lost Rome by his waste of a few days after the battle of Cannæ. Whether his failure before Rome resulted from his delay remains uncertain. His great name forbids the credence of any imputation lessening his fame without full proof. No man can doubt but that the British general lost Charleston by his waste of forty-eight hours; and yet, for aught the writer knows, the delay might have proceeded from necessity, not from choice.

[35] General Lincoln set an example, in his order of battle, worthy of imitation by all commanders at the head of unequal troops, as was invariably the case with American commandants.

Knowing that the Highlanders would take the enemy’s right, he placed his continentals on his left, whereas, agreeably to usage, they would have composed our right. Form ought ever to yield to substance, especially in the arrangements for battle.

[36] Mason, with his Virginia brigade, now advanced, delivering a heavy fire. The enemy drew back; and our retreat was effected in tolerable order.

[37] The heat in the months of July and August forbade the toils of war. In 1781 we found the heat of September and October very oppressive.

[38] By retaining the post at Beaufort, the British general could readily penetrate by the means of the inland navigation into South Carolina, unmolested by the Americans, destitute as we were of naval force.

[39] This opinion of sir Henry Clinton was well founded: the destruction of the resources of Virginia must have led to the annihilation of southern opposition. She may be truly styled the matrix of resistance in the south. The other states were too remote to furnish many supplies, indispensable to the prosecution of the war in that extremity of the Union.

[40] So named in commemoration of the patriotic and virtuous general Nelson, afterwards governor of the state, not more distinguished for his estimable qualities as a man than he was by his pure and gallant exertions in the cabinet and in the field.

[41] Thomas Matthews, since speaker of the house of delegates of Virginia.

[42] General Lincoln passed the Savannah river at Zubly’s ferry. On the south the swamps are very extensive, pierced by three creeks, over which, bridges had been erected. These had been broken down by the British general, and thus our progress was much retarded.

[43] Whether general Lincoln remonstrated to the count for this folly, if unmeant, and for this impertinence, if meant, the writer cannot decide; but it has been often and confidently asserted, that the French commander explained the matter to general Lincoln’s satisfaction.

[44] The information derived by the communication from the governor general,and French consul, before mentioned, and which led to the enterprise, was correct. D’Estaing found the enemy subdivided, the best officer and the best troops did not join until the truce was nearly expired. Any four hours before the junction of lieutenant colonel Maitland was sufficient to have taken Savannah.

[45] The hollow way which led to the enemy’s right gave great advantage to the assailant. It brought him close, unperceived and uninjured. The small distance to pass over when discovered, and when exposed to the enemy’s fire, diminished greatly the loss to be sustained before he reached the ditch. So persuaded was the British general that his right was the part to be especially guarded, that there he posted his best troops, and there commanded lieutenant colonel Maitland.

[46] This gallant soldier was a native of Poland, whose disastrous history is well known. Vainly struggling to restore the lost independence of his country, he was forced to seek personal safety by its abandonment. Hearing of the noble struggle in which were engaged, he hastened to the wilds of America, and associated himself with our perils and our fortune. Congress honored him with the commission of brigadier general, with a view, as was rumored, of placing him at the head of the American cavalry, the line of service in which he had been bred. But his ignorance of our language, and the distaste of our officers to foreign superiority, stifled this project. He was then authorized to raise a legionary corps, appointing his own officers.

Indefatigable and persevering, the count collected about two hundred infantry and two hundred horse, made up of all sorts, chiefly of German deserters. His officers were generally foreign, with some Americans. With this assemblage, the count took the field; and after serving some time in the northern army, he was sent to the south, and fell as has been described. He was sober, diligent and intrepid, gentlemanly in his manners, and amiable in heart. He was very reserved, and, when alone, betrayed strong evidence of deep melancholy. Those who knew him intimately spoke highly of the sublimity of his virtue, and the constancy of his friendship. Commanding this heterogeneous corps, badly equipped and worse mounted, this brave Pole encountered difficulty and sought danger. Nor have I the smallest doubt if he had been conversant in our language, and better acquainted with our customs and country, but that he would have become one of our most conspicuous and useful officers.

[47] The thorough good will, exemplified by the general’s troops when separating, induces the belief that the offensive style, in which the summons had been couched, had either been satisfactorily explained, or was understood by the American general to have been an accidental slip on the part of the count d’Estaing in the hurry of the moment.

[48] In the whole course of the American war, there seems to have been a systematic sacrifice of time by the British generals, excepting where lord Cornwallis commanded. I do not recollect any operations wherein the British resorted to forced marches, Washington, in 1776, was hurried through the Jerseys. Upon this occasion lord Cornwallis was the operating general; and we all remember how he pushed Morgan, and afterwards Greene, in the Carolinas. The delay of sir Henry Clinton in this short march of thirty miles is inexplicable, unless from habit, or from a wish to induce the American general to shut himself up in Charleston.

[49] The legislature passed an act “delegating to governor Rutledge, and such of his council as he could conveniently consult, a power to do every thing necessary for the public good, except taking away the life of a citizen without legal trial. This is dealing out power with a profuse hand.

[50] A critical research into the various proceedings of congress and of the States, in making preparations of defence, evince a negligence in the ascertainment of facts, essential to the accurate execution of measures which excite surprise and regret. We have before seen that a British admiral first discovered that a small inlet between Mud Island and the Pennsylvania shore would admit ships with cannon, and that availing himself of this discovery, he forced us to abandon Mud Island, and thus probably saved the British army. We now see that it was reserved for the moment of trial to learn that the bar of Charleston was not defensible by our squadron, because the water within the bar was too shallow for our frigates. Would not due inquiry have ascertained these truths in due time, when the inlet so destructive to Mud Island might have been readily shut up by immovable obstructions, close as it was under the command of our fort, and when a naval force, fitted for the depth of water within the bar, might have been as readily prepared and sent to Charleston as was the useless squadron which, by the surrender of the town, became the property of the enemy.

[51] Was this the solitary instance within our own experience of the accuracy of this observation, the result so confidently relied upon might be doubted; but every attempt made by the naval force of the enemy during the war succeeded in like manner; and many such operations took place.

Experience every where proves the truth of the remark; and it ought to influence government in their preparation of water defences whenever they may be resorted to.

[52] Our cavalry was now safe; and we had a small force of militia. All the horses in Charleston might have been conveyed across the river with saddles, bridles, and swords, which would have enabled Lincoln to have mounted some of his infantry, to act as dragoons, and thus given to the retreating army a decided superiority in that important force. At the same time it would have deprived the enemy of the means of transportation of stores, baggage, and munitions, without which, in adequate quantities, he would not have pursued any great distance. Gaining one march in this situation of things, Lincoln was safe; and this advantage was certain, if his caution and secrecy prevented discovery.

[53] In the sickly season (the summer and autumn) Charleston is resorted to, as with us and every where else on the two continents, are the upper country and its waters. This used to be the case; and I believe it still continues, with the exception of some who visit the northern states in the sultry season.

[54] The American general partakes in character more of Æneas, than of Hector.

[55] Sir Henry Clinton had left New York with a reduced force, and under a German general; admitting that he was safe from the intrusion of a French navy, as was probable, still he was not safe from general Washington, whose army never received its full annual strength sooner than July. Such was the dilatory progress, under our weak government. It therefore could not be doubted but that sir Henry Clinton would return, and that as soon as was practicable, after the fall of Charleston.

[56] In proof of the sad expectations which prevailed in Charleston about this time, I subjoin an intercepted letter, published by Mr. Stedman, whose history of the American war I have perused with great satisfaction, “From Mr. B. Smith to Mrs. Smith, dated Charleston, April 30.”

Having never had an opportunity of writing to her since the enemy began to act with vigor, and knowing that a thousand evil reports will prevail to increase her uneasiness—

Mine I have supported pretty well until last night, when I really almost sunk under the load. Nothing remains around to comfort me but a probability of saving my life, after going through many difficulties. Our affairs are daily declining; and not a ray of hope remains to assure us of our success. The enemy have turned the siege into a blockade, which in a short time must have the desired effect; and the most sanguine do not now entertain the smallest hope of the town being saved. The enemy have continued their approaches with vigor continually, since I wrote the inclosed, and are now completing batteries about two hundred yards distance from our lines. They but seldom fire from their cannon; but their popping off rifles and small guns do frequent mischief, and every night throw an amazing number of shells amongst our people, which, at the lines, though not attended with the damage that might be reasonably expected, do some mischief. Our communication is entirely cut off from the country (excepting by a small pass at great risk) by lord Cornwallis, who occupies every landing place from Hadrell’s point, a considerable way up the river, with two thousand and five hundred men. When I wrote last, it was the general opinion that we could evacuate the town at pleasure; but a considerable reinforcement having arrived to the enemy, has enabled them to strengthen their posts so effectually as to prevent that measure. The same cause prevents our receiving further supplies of provisions or reinforcements; and a short time will plant the British standard on our ramparts. You will see by the inclosed summons that the persons and properties of the inhabitants will be saved; and consequently I expect to have the liberty of soon returning to you; but the army must be made prisoners of war. This will give a rude shock to the independence of America; and a Lincolnade will be as common a term as a Burgoynade. But I hope in time we shall recover this severe blow. However, before this happens, I hope I shall be permitted to return home, where I must stay, as my situation will not permit me to take any further an active part; and therefore my abandoning my property will subject me to many inconveniences and losses, without being any way serviceable to the country. This letter will run great risk, as it will be surrounded on all sides; but as I know the person to whose care it is committed, and feel for your uneasy situation, I could not but trust it. Assure yourself that I shall shortly see you; as nothing prevents Lincoln’s surrender but a point of honor of holding out to the last extremity. This is nearly at hand, as our provisions will soon fail; and my plan is to walk off as soon as I can obtain permission. Should your father be at home, make him acquainted with the purport of this letter, and remember me to him, also to your mother; but do not let the intelligence go out of the house. But a mortifying scene must first be encountered; the thirteen stripes will be levelled in the dust, and I owe my life to the clemency of the conqueror.

(Signed) B. SMITH.

[57] “Some dragoons of the British legion attempted to ravish several ladies in the house of Dr. John Collington, in the neighborhood of Monk’s Corner, where they were protected. A carriage being provided, they were escorted to the house of M—. The dragoons were apprehended and brought to Monk’s Corner, where by this time colonel Webster had arrived and taken the command. The late colonel Patrick Ferguson, of whom we shall have to speak more hereafter, was for putting the dragoons to death. But colonel Webster did not conceive that his power extended to holding a general court martial. The prisoners were, however, sent to head quarters; and, I believe, were afterwards tried and whipped.” Stedman.

[58] “Forty-two wagons, one hundred and two wagon horses, and eighty-two dragoon horses, and several officer’s horses; a quantity of ammunition, flour, butter, clothing, camp and horse equipage, harness for all the wagons, all the officer’s clothing and baggage, together with five puncheons of rum, six hogsheads Muscovado sugar, four barrels indigo, a quantity of tea, coffee, spices, nails in casks, some French cloth, three barrels of gunpowder, swords. &c., found in a store, which was set on fire and blown up by the carelessness of a sentinel. The loss of the Americans in men was major Bernie of Pulaski’s legion of dragoons, and three captains, one lieutenant, and two privates, killed; fifteen privates, one captain, and two lieutenants, taken prisoners, including the wounded. Major Bernie was mangled in the most shocking manner: he had several wounds, a severe one behind his ear. This unfortunate officer lived several hours, reprobating the Americans for their conduct on this occasion; and even in his last moments cursing the British for their barbarity, in having refused quarter after he had surrendered. The writer of this, who was ordered on the expedition, afforded every assistance in his power, and had the major put upon a table in a public house in the village, and a blanket thrown over him. The major, in his last moments, was frequently insulted by the privates of the legion.” STEDMAN.

[59] Lord Cornwallis had taken possession of Mount Pleasant, which produced the evacuation of Lempriere’s and Wando posts.

It applied as precisely to the withdraw of the garrison from Fort Moultrie; as that post had never been fortified in this quarter, and was, of course, subject to approach without difficulty.

[60] This change in temper and feelings of the people of Charleston belongs to man similarly situated all over the world; and therefore military commandants, in taking military measures, while they hear with patience and decorum, the desires of the inhabitants, ought never to regard them in the adoption of their plans or measures. General Lincoln no more ought to have been influenced by the remonstrances of the citizens of Charleston, when weighing in his mind the propriety of evacuation, than ought a tender father to regard the crying of his child on his administering a dose of physic to save its life.


Charleston, May 11, 1780.


The same motives of humanity which inclined you to propose articles of capitulation to this garrison induced me to offer those I had the honor of sending you on the 8th instant. They then appeared to me such as I might proffer, and you receive, with honor to both parties. Your exceptions to them, as they principally concerned the militia and citizens, I then conceived were such as could not be concurred with; but a recent application from those people, wherein they express a willingness to comply with them, and a wish on my part to lessen, as much as may be, the distresses of war to individuals, lead me now to offer you my acceptance of them. I have the honor to be, &c.

(Signed) B. LINCOLN.

His excellency sir H. CLINTON.

Camp before Charleston, May 11, 1780.


When you rejected the favorable terms which were dictated by an earnest desire to prevent the effusion of blood, and interposed articles that were wholly inadmissible, both the admiral and myself were of opinion, that the surrender of the town at discretion was the only condition that should afterwards be attended to; but as the motives which then induced them are still prevalent, I now inform you that the terms then offered will still be granted.

A copy of the articles shall be sent for your ratification as soon as they ran be prepared; and immediately after they are exchanged, a detachment of grenadiers will be sent to take possession of the horn-work opposite your main gate. Every arrangement which may conduce to good order in occupying the town, shall be settled before noon to-morrow; and at that time your garrison will march out. I have the honor to be, &c.


Major general LINCOLN.

Articles of capitulation between their excellencies sir Henry Clinton, Mariot Arbuthnot, Esq., and major general Benjamin Lincoln.

Art. 1st. That all acts of hostility and work shall cease between the besiegers and the besieged, until the articles of capitulation shall be agreed on, signed, and executed, or collectively rejected.

Answer. All acts of hostility and work shall cease, until the articles of capitulation are finally agreed to or rejected.

Art. 2d. The town and fortifications shall be surrendered to the commander in chief of the British forces, such as they now stand.

Answer. The town and fortifications, with the shipping at the wharves, artillery, and all other public stores whatsoever, shall be surrendered in their present state to the commanders of the investing forces; proper officers shall attend from the respective departments to receive them.

Art. 3d. The continental troops and sailors, with their baggage, shall be conducted to a place to be agreed on, where they shall remain prisoners of war until exchanged. While prisoners, they shall be supplied with good and wholesome provisions in such quantity as is served out to the troops of his Britannic majesty.

Answer. Granted.

Art. 4th. The militia now in garrison shall be permitted to return to their respective homes as prisoners on parole; which parole, as long as they observe, shall secure them from being molested in their property by the British troops.

Art. 5th. The sick and wounded shall be continued under the care of their own surgeons, and be supplied with medicine and such necessaries as are allowed to the British hospitals.

Answer. Granted.

Art. 6th. The officers of the army and navy shall keep their horses, swords, pistols, and baggage, which shall not be searched, and retain their servants.

Answer. Granted, except with respect to the horses, which will not be allowed to go out of the town; but may be disposed of by a person left from each corps for that purpose.

Art. 7th. The garrison shall, at an hour appointed, march out with shouldered arms, drums beating, and colors flying, to a place to be agreed on, where they will pile their arms.

Answer. The whole garrison shall, at an hour to be appointed, march out of the town to the ground between the works of the place and the canal, where they will deposit their arms. The drums are not to beat a British march, or colors to be uncased.

Art. 8th. That the French consul, his house, papers, and other movable property, shall be protected and untouched, and a proper time granted to him for retiring to any place that may afterwards be agreed upon between him and the commander in chief of the British forces.

Answer. Agreed, with this restriction, that lie is to consider himself as a prisoner on parole.

Art. 9. That the citizens shall be protected in their persons and properties.

Answer. All civil officers, and the citizens who have borne arms during the siege, must be prisoners on parole; and with respect to their property in the city, shall have the same terms as are granted to the militia: and all other persons now in the town, not to be described in this or other article, are, notwithstanding, understood to be prisoners on parole.

Art. 10th. That a twelve-month’s time be allowed all such as do not choose to continue under the British government to dispose of their effects real and personal, in the state, without any molestation whatever; or to remove such part thereof as they choose, as well as themselves and families; and that, during that time, they or any of them may have it at their option to reside occasionally in town or country.

Answer. The discussion of this article of course cannot possibly be entered into at present.

Art. 11th. That the same protection to their persons and properties, and the same time for the removal of their effects, be given to the subjects of France and Spain, as are required for the citizens in the preceding article.

Answer. The subjects of France and Spain shall have the same terms as are granted to the French consul.

Art. 13th. That a vessel be permitted to go to Philadelphia with the general’s despatches, which are not to be opened.

Answer. Granted; and a proper vessel with a flag will be provided for that purpose.

All public papers and records must be carefully preserved and faithfully delivered to such persons as shall be appointed to receive them.

Done in Charleston, May 12th, 1780.
Done in camp before Charleston, May 12th, 1780.
Signed H. CLINTON.

[62] Return of the ships and vessels taken and destroyed in the siege of Charleston. The Bricole, pierced for sixty, mounting forty-four guns, twenty-four and eighteen pounders, her captain, officers and company, prisoners. Queen of France, twenty-eight nine pounders, sunk, her captain and company prisoners. Notre Dame, brig, sixteen guns, sunk, captain and company prisoners. Providence, thirty-two eighteen and twelve pounders, taken, captain and company prisoners. Ranger, twenty six pounders, taken, crew prisoners.

French ships. L’Aventure, twenty-six nine and six pounders, captain and crew prisoners. Polacre, sixteen six pounders, captain and crew prisoners. Some empty brigs, and other smaller vessels; lying at the wharves, taken, with four row-galleys.

[63] How lord Cornwallis could encourage such barbarity, by omitting to punish the perpetrator, has never been satisfactorily explained. It tended to diminish the respect entertained for his lordship’s character in the camp of his enemy, which had been invariably admired for that happy mixture of goodness as a man, with greatness as a soldier, heretofore strongly exemplified by his conduct. For my own part I am persuaded that the commanding officer is as much bound by the obligations of his station to punish the cruel, as the deserting soldier; and it is to be lamented, whenever he intentionally fails to do it, that he is not himself punished by his sovereign.

[64] Lieutenant colonel Lee was ordered to join Marion after Greene determined to turn the war back to South Carolina in 1781. An officer, with a small party, preceded Lee a few days march to find out Marion, who was known to vary his position in the swamps of Pedee: sometimes in South Carolina, sometimes in North Carolina, and sometimes on the Black River. With the greatest difficulty did this officer learn how to communicate with the brigadier; and that by the accident of hearing among our friends on the north side of the Pedee, of a small provision party of Marion’s being on the same side of the river. Making himself known to this party, he was conveyed to the general, who had changed his ground since his party left him, which occasioned many hours’ search even before his own men could find him.

[65] The inhabitants of these three counties, among the most populous in the state, were true and zealous in their maintenance of the revolution; and they were always ready to encounter any and every peril to support the cause of their hearts. Contiguous to the western border over the mountains, lived that hardy race of mountaineers, equally attached to the cause of our common country, and who rolled occasionally like a torrent on the hostile territory. The ground was strong, and the soil rich and cultivated. In every respect, therefore, it was adapted to the American general until he had rendered himself completely ready for offence.

[66] Armand was one of the many French gentlemen who joined our army, and was one of the few who were honored with important commands. His officers were generally foreign, and his soldiers chiefly deserters. It was the last corps in the army which ought to have been entrusted with the van post; because, however unexceptionable the officers may have been, the materials of which the corps was composed did not warrant such distinction.

[67] Mr. Marshall, in his Life of Washington, gives a summary of the principal events in the southern war. This faithful historian tells us, that in the night, as soon as the skirmish terminated, some prisoners were brought to Gates; from whom he learnt that the British army was in front. The general officers were immediately assembled. The intelligence received from the prisoners was communicated to them, and their opinions asked on the measures to be adopted.

General Stevens, of the Virginia militia, answered, that “It was now too late to retreat.” A silence of some moments ensued; and general Gates, who seems himself to have been disposed to try the chance of a battle, understanding silence to be an approbation of the sentiments delivered by Stevens, broke up the council by saying, “Then we must fight: gentlemen, please to take your posts.”

[68] General Gates did not, in his disposition, conform to the judicious principle which we find observed by general Lincoln; or our continentals would have been posted on the left to oppose the British right. Indeed, such seems to have been Gates’ hurry, from the moment he was called to the command in the south, as to forbid that full inquiry into his enemy’s and his own situation, as well as intimate acquaintance with the character of his own and his enemy’s troops, so necessary to the pursuit of right measures in war.

[69] The state of Delaware furnished one regiment only; and certainly no regiment in the army surpassed it in soldiership. The remnant of that corps, less than two companies, from the battle of Cambden, was commanded by captain Kirkwood, who passed through the war with high reputation; and yet as the line of Delaware consisted but of one regiment, and that regiment was reduced to a captain’s command, Kirkwood never could be promoted in regular routine,—a very glaring defect in the organization of the army, as it gave advantages to parts of the same army, denied to other portions of it. The sequel is singularly hard. Kirkwood retired, upon peace, as a captain; and when the army under St. Clair was raised to defend the West from the Indian enemy, this veteran resumed his sword as the eldest captain of the oldest regiment.

In the decisive defeat of the 4th November the gallant Kirkwood fell, bravely sustaining his point of the action. It was the thirty-third time he had risked his life for his country; and he died as he had lived, the brave, meritorious, unrewarded; Kirkwood.

[70] See Appendix, D.

[71] The American war presents examples of first rate courage, occasionally exhibited by corps of militia, and often with the highest success.

Here was a splendid instance of self-possession by a single regiment, out of two brigades. Dixon had commanded a continental regiment; and of course, to his example and knowledge, much is to be ascribed; yet praise is nevertheless due to the troops. While I record, with delight, facts which maintain our native and national courage, I feel a horror lest demagogues, who flourish in a representative system of government, (the best, when virtue rules, the wit of man can devise) shall avail themselves of the occasional testimony, to produce a general result.

Convinced as I am, that a government is the murderer of its citizens, which sends them to the field uninformed and untaught, where they are to meet men of the same age and strength, mechanized by education and discipline for battle, I cannot withhold my denunciation of its wickedness and folly; much as I applaud, and must ever applaud, those instances, like the one before us, of armed citizens vying with our best soldiers in the first duty of man to his country.

[72] This consolation was necessarily mingled with acute remorse. It must have reminded the general of the advantages once in his command, by pursuing the prudent system of striking his adversary in detail; and if victory with him was only pleasant by being immediate, it would bring to his recollection the propriety of having brought Sumpter to him, instead of detaching Wool ford from him.

Lord Cornwallis, hearing from his commandant at Cambden of the success of Sumpter, in the midst of his prosperity turned his mind to the recovery of the loss he had sustained,—an example meriting imitation from all who may command in war. Small as was the advantage gained, had it been enjoyed, great would have been the good derived in its consequences. The British, general, foreseeing this, did not indulge even in the proud moments of victory, but gave his mind and time to prepare Sumpter’s destruction.

[73] The officer adventuring, as did general Sumpter, must never be satisfied with common precautions: they will not do.

It is difficult to prescribe rules upon the subject; because every single case is to be regarded, and must suggest its own regulations to a meditating mind. One fixed principle however we may venture to lay down: viz. that the captured, with a portion of the victorious corps, ought to be immediately despatched, with orders to move night and day until out of reach; while the commander, with the least fatigued troops, should hold himself some hours in the rear, sweeping with the best of his cavalry all the country between him and his enemy, thus procuring correct information, which will always secure a retiring corps.

[74] This rapid withdraw of general Gates has been generally supposed to diminish his reputation. Not so, in truth. It does him honor; as it evinced a mind capable, amidst confusion and distress, of discerning the point most promising to renew with expedition his strength: at the same time incapable of being withheld from doing his duty, by regarding the calumny with which he was sure to be assailed.

[75] Lord Rawdon’s retrograde movement from Lynch’s creek was certainly a favorable movement for general Gates’ correction of his erroneous system, and enabled the general to have worked his own troops into the best spirits. Had he so done, and fallen back himself, holding his main body safe, and supporting, by fit and occasional succor, Marion and Sumpter in their sudden inroads into the enemy’s territory, and upon his flanks, we must then have recovered South Carolina, with the exception of Charleston.

[76] I never could see the justice of denominating our Indian borderers savage. They appear to me to merit a very different appellation, as we well know they are not behind their civilized neighbors in the practice of many of the virtues most dear to human nature.

[77] In reviewing the military correspondence and statements of our war, the activity and usefulness of the Americans who joined the British, forces itself upon our attention. Not more than one tenth of our population is rated as attached to Great Britain in the late contest, of which not more than a hundreth is supposed to have taken an active part with the enemy. Yet great and effective were the services derived from them; not only in the field, where they fought with acknowledged valor, but in procuring intelligence, and providing provision. Mr. Kedman, a British officer, and in the commissariat under lord Cornwallis, tells us, that the army would have been often destitute of provisions, but through the capacity and activity of the inhabitants who repaired to the royal standard. In our war no liberal mind will deny, that every man had a right to take his side, as it grew out of a domestic difference; whereas, in a foreign war every citizen is bound to support his country. While, therefore, we lament the opposition of this part of our fellow citizens, wc cannot condemn them for taking the part believed by them to be right.

It is to be hoped, that should we be brought (which in the course of things too often occurs) to make the last appeal again, that we shall be exempted from the ills which inevitably follow the want of unanimity. That government best deserves applause, which is administered with a view to preserve union at home as its first object; it being the cheapest and surest defence against injustice from abroad.

[78] During this retreat the British rasped the young corn into a coarse meal, which was considered a better mode of preparing the corn than roasting or parching, common with us. Biscuit made of flour, from which only the bran has been taken, is the best and cheapest for winter quarters, when the soldier may conveniently bake his bread.

[79] Major Wemyss was very remiss in not having opened his plan and views to his second in command; for it often happens that the first is stopped from service during the action. What might have been the issue of this enterprise had the British major properly informed his next in command with his plan, resources and expectations, cannot be determined; but no doubt can exist but that the effect of the assailing troops must have been diminished considerably by thix culpable omission in the commandant.

[80] Major Money, lieutenant Gibson, lieutenant Cope: the infantry amounted only to eighty. What presumption! to expect to dislodge an officer acknowledged to be the most brave, posted on ground chosen by himself, at the head of five or six hundred troops, whose valor had been often before tested, with one hundred and sixty, mostly dragoons. The British cavalry could not act with effect from the nature of the ground, as was evinced by the nugatory attempt made by lieutenant colonel Tarleton at their head.

[81] Lieutenant colonel Washington found among his difficulties that of acquiring proper swords not the least considerable; and hearing that the arsenal of his native state in Richmond abounded with dragoon swords, he despatched an officer to governor Jefferson, stating his wants, and soliciting relief.

[82] When general Gates was about to set out from Virginia for the South, his old acquaintance and fellow soldier, general Charles Lee, waited on him to take leave; and pressing him by the hand, bade him to bear in mind, that the laurels of the North must not be exchanged for the willow of the South.


Headquarters, Passaic Falls, October 22d, 1780.


In consequence of a resolve of congress, directing an inquiry into the conduct of major general Gates, and authorizing me to appoint some other officer in his place during this inquiry, I have made choice of major general Greene, who will, I expect, have the honor of presenting you with this letter.

I shall, without scruple, introduce this gentleman to you as a man of abilities, bravery and coolness. He has a comprehensive knowledge of our affairs, and is a man of fortitude and resources. I have not the smallest doubt, therefore, of his employing all the means which may be put into his hands to the best advantage, nor of his assisting in pointing out the most likely ones to answer the purposes of his command. With this character I take the liberty of recommending him to your civilities and support; for I have no doubt, from the embarrassed situation of southern affairs, of his standing much in need of the latter, from every gentleman of influence in the assemblies of those states.

As general Greene can give you the most perfect information in detail of our present distresses, and future prospects, I shall content myself with the aggregate account of them: and, with respect to the first, they are so great and complicated, that it is scarcely within the powers of description to give an adequate idea of them. With regard to the second, unless there is a material change both in our civil and military policy, it will be in vain to contend much longer.

We are without money, and have been so for a long time: without provision and forage, except what is taken by impress: without clothing, and shortly shall be (in a manner) without men. In a word, we have lived upon expedients till we can live no longer; and it may truly be said, that the history of this war is a history of false hopes and temporary devices instead of system,—and economy, which results from it.

If we mean to continue our struggles (and it is to be hoped we shall not relinquish our claims) we must do it upon an entire new plan. We must have a permanent force; not a force that is constantly fluctuating, and sliding from under us, as a pedestal of ice would leave a statue in a summer’s day; involving us in expense that baffles all calculation, an expense which no funds are equal to. We must at the same time contrive ways and means to aid our taxes by loans, and put our finances upon a more certain and stable footing than they are at present. Our civil government must likewise undergo a reform; ample powers must be lodged in congress as the head of the Federal Union, adequate to all the purposes of war. Unless these things are done, our efforts will be in vain, and only serve to accumulate expense, add to our perplexities, and dissatisfy the people, without a prospect of obtaining the prize in view. But these sentiments do not appear well in a hasty letter, without digestion or order. I have not time to give them otherwise, and shall only assure you that they are well meant, however crude they may appear. With sincere affection, I am, dear sir, your most obedient servant,



[84] The selection of our first deputies establishes an important truth, that the people in danger, and free from the distraction of feuds and factions, will always act wisely. When distracted by feud and severed by faction, they will rarely do so. The Virginia assembly made its first election of delegates exempt from the art and rage of faction. They were Peyton Randolph, George Washington, Richard H. Lee, Patrick Henry, Edmund Pendleton, Richard Bland, and Benjamin Harrison.

[85] This officer was a Prussian by birth, and had passed his youth in arms during the war of 1754, chiefly under the orders of prince Henry, brother to the great Frederick, and his rival in military celebrity. Towards the close of that war, Steuben had been introduced into the family of the prince, whose confidence and esteem he enjoyed for ever after. On his arrival he attracted the consideration of congress, and was soon promoted to the station of inspector general of the army, with the rank of major general. To him we are indebted for the great proficiency in tactics acquired by the troops in 1777, 1778 at Valley Forge. He was singularly useful in this line, and much respected for his military experience. Faithful and honorable, he supported the cause of his adopted country with the ardor of youth, gained high confidence with the Commander in chief, and was honored, on many occasions, with important trusts.

[86] Negro slavery.

[87] The constitution of the United States, adopted lately with so much difficulty, has effectually provided against this evil (by importation,) after a few years. This single benevolent, and judicious, trait ought to have recommended that instrument strongly to the pious and amiable throughout the Union, and to the slave holder of every description. Yet in most of the slave states it was pertinaciously opposed.

It is much to be lamented, that having done so much good in this way, a provision had not been made for the gradual abolition of slavery. In a state of war, what can be more dreadful than the conviction, that we have in our bosoms an inveterate enemy ready to turn upon us in our beds, whenever opportunity and instigation shall prompt to the execution of the bloody tragedy? yet this is the state of the Union south of Susquehanna.

[88] Extract from the minutes of the house of delegates.

Thursday, 28th December, 1780.

“Resolved, that a committee of four be appointed to wait on major general Gates, and to assure him of the high regard and esteem of this house; that the remembrance of his former glorious services cannot be obliterated by any reverse of fortune, but that this house, ever mindful of his great merit, will omit no opportunity of testifying to the world the gratitude which, as a member of the American Union, this country owes him in his military character.”

And the said resolution being read a second time, was, on the question put thereupon, agreed to by the house nemine contradicente.

Ordered, that Mr. Henry. Mr. R. H. Lee, Mr. Yane, and general Nelson, be appointed of the said committee.

Friday, 29th December, 1780.

Mr. Henry reported from the committee appointed to communicate the resolution of the house of yesterday to major general Gates, that the committee had, according to order, communicated the same to that gentleman; and that he had been pleased to return the following answer.

Richmond, 28th December, 1780.

I shall remember, with the utmost gratitude, the honor this day done me by the honorable house of delegates of Virginia. When I engaged in the cause of freedom, and of the United States, I devoted myself entirely to the service of obtaining the great end of this Union. The having been once unfortunate is my great mortification; but let the event of my future services be what it may, they will, as they always have been, be directed by the most faithful integrity, and animated by the purest zeal for the honor and interest of the United States.


[89] This conduct comes nearest to that of the Roman senate, who thanked Varro, the author of the defeat at Cannæ, for returning to Rome, and for not having despaired of the commonwealth. A magnanimity unequalled in the history of nations.

[90] This fact was eminently illustrated by the battle of Germantown. Sir William Howe gained the day, but the advantages which resulted from the action were evidently on the side of Washington. The British general gave up the small section of the country he held, and submitted to the inconveniences of a position around Philadelphia. Exchanging an open country for the suburbs of the city, salubrity for insalubrity, and drawing upon his troops the additional labor of field works, to put himself safe, while pursuing his measures for the restoration of the river navigation.

[91] Mr. Marshall, in his Life of Washington, has treated this interesting transaction with peculiar attention. The correspondence between the two generals, with which this writer has favored the public, is so characteristic, that I cannot refrain from transcribing it.

Albany, December 18th, 1777.


I shall not attempt to describe, what, as a private gentleman, I cannot help feeling, on representing to my mind the disagreeable situation, which confidential letters, when exposed to public inspection, may place an unsuspecting correspondent in; but as a public officer I conjure your excellency to give me all the assistance you can, in tracing out the author of the infidelity which put extracts from general Conway’s letters to me into your hands. These letters have been stealingly copied; but which of them, when, or by whom, is to me, as yet, an unfathomable secret. There is not one officer in my suite, or amongst those who have free access to me, upon whom I could, with the least justification to myself, fix the suspicion; and yet my uneasiness may deprive me of the usefulness of the worthiest men. It is, I believe, in your excellency’s power to do me and the United States a very important service, in detecting a wretch who may betray me, and capitally injure the very operations under your immediate direction. For this reason, sir, I beg your excellency will favor me with the proofs you can procure to that effect. But the crime being eventually so important, that the least loss of time may be attended with the worst consequences, and it being unknown to me, whether the letter came to you from a member of congress, or from an officer, I shall have the honor of transmitting a copy of this to the president, that congress may, in concert with your excellency, obtain, as soon as possible, a discovery which deeply affects the safety of the states. Crimes of that magnitude ought not to remain unpunished. I have the honor to be, Sir, With the greatest respect, your excellency’s most humble and most obedient servant,


His excellency general WASHINGTON.

Valley Forge, January 14th, 1778.


Your letter of the 18th ultimo came to my hands a few days ago, and to my great surprise informed me, that a copy of it had been sent to congress; for what reason I find myself unable to account; but as some end doubtless was intended to be answered by it, I am laid under the disagreeable necessity of returning my answer through the same channel, lest any member of that body should harbor some unfavorable suspicion of my having practised some indirect means to come at the contents of the confidential letters between you and general Conway.

I am to inform you then, that *********** on his way to congress, in the month of October last, fell in with lord Stirling at Reading; and not in confidence that I ever understood, informed his aid-de-camp, major M’Williams, that general Conway had written thus to you: “Heaven has been determined to save your country; or a weak general and bad counsellors would have ruined it.” Lord Stirling, from motives of friendship, transmitted the account with this remark: “The inclosed was communicated by *********** to major M’Williams; such wicked duplicity of conduct I shall always think it my duty to detect.”

In consequence of this information, and without having any thing more in view, than merely to show that gentleman that I was not unapprised of his intriguing disposition, I wrote him a letter in these words: “Sir, a letter which I received last night contained the following paragraph: ‘in a letter from general Conway to general Gates he says, Heaven has determined to save your country; or a weak general and bad counsellors would have ruined it.’ I am sir, &c.”

Neither the letter nor the information which occasioned it was ever, directly or indirectly, communicated by me to a single officer in the army, (out of my own family) excepting the marquis de la Fayette, who, having been spoken to on the subject by general Conway, applied for, and saw, under injunctions of secrecy, the letter which contained this. So desirous was I of concealing every matter that could, in its consequences, give the smallest interruption to the tranquillity of this army, or afford a gleam of hope to the enemy by dissensions therein.

I trust, sir, with that openness and candor which I hope will ever characterize and mark my conduct, I have complied with your request. The only concern I feel upon the occasion, finding how matters stand, is, that in doing this I have been necessarily obligated to name a gentleman, who, I am persuaded, (although I never exchanged a word with him upon the subject) thought he was rather doing an act of justice than committing an act of infidelity; and sure I am, that until lord Stirling’s letter came to my hands, I never knew that general Conway (whom I viewed in the light of a stranger to you) was a correspondent of yours; much less did I suspect that I was the subject of your confidential letters. Pardon me then for adding, that so far from conceiving that the safety of the states can be affected, or in the smallest degree injured, by a discovery of this kind, or that I should be called upon in such solemn terms to point out the author, that I considered the information as coming from yourself, and given with a friendly view to forewarn,and consequently to forearm, me against a secret enemy; or in other words, a dangerous incendiary: in which character, sooner or later, this country will know general Conway. But in this, as well as other matters of late, I have found myself mistaken. I am, Sir, Your most obedient servant,


To major general GATES.

Whatever part general Conway may have taken in this flagitious attempt, whether principal or secondary, is not ascertained; but he had gone far enough to warrant the commander in chief in denouncing him a “dangerous incendiary.”

Nevertheless, justice requires that I should add, that this officer was among the most respectable and the most experienced of the many French gentlemen who joined the American army; and that he afterwards made, to his much injured commander, the best amends in his power, as is manifested by the following letter, written after resignation of his commission, and when he expected to die in consequence of a wound received in a duel with general Cadwallader, produced by his animadversions on the commander in chief.

Philadelphia, February 23d, 1778.


I find myself just able to hold my pen during a few minutes, and take this opportunity of expressing my sincere grief, for having done, written, or said, any thing disagreeable to your excellency. My career will soon be over; therefore justice and truth prompt me to declare my last sentiments. You are in my eyes the great and good man. May you long enjoy the love, esteem, and veneration of these states, whose liberties you have asserted by your virtues. I am, with the greatest respect, your excellency’s most obedient humble servant,


[92] These two companies of militia were generally continental soldiers, who, having served the time of their enlistment, had returned home, regularly discharged.

A custom for some time past prevailed, which gave to us the aid of such soldiers. Voluntary proffer of service being no longer fashionable, the militia were drafted conformably to a system established by law; and whenever the lot fell upon the timid or wealthy, he procured, by a douceur, a substitute, who, for the most part, was one of those heretofore discharged.

[93] Tarleton’s cavalry are stated at three hundred and fifty, while that under Morgan did not exceed eighty.

Morgan’s militia used rifles, and were expert marksmen: this corps composed nearly one half of his infantry.

Tarleton’s detachment is put down at one thousand. Morgan, in a letter to general Greene, after his victory, gives his total at eight hundred.

[94] “In the eagerness of pursuit Washington advanced near thirty yards in front of his regiment. Observing this, three British officers wheeled about, and made a charge upon him. The officer on his right was aiming to cut him down, when a serjeant came up and intercepted the blow by disabling his sword arm. At the same instant the officer on his left was also about to make a stroke at him, when a waiter, too small to wield a sword, saved him by wounding the officer with a ball, discharged from a pistol. At this moment the officer in the centre, who was believed to be Tarleton, made a thrust at him, which he parried; upon which the officer retreated a few paces, and then discharged a pistol at him, which wounded his knee.” Marshall’s Life of Washington.

[95] This remark is not made to disparage the German troops serving with the British army in America. They were excellent soldiers; but, for light services, they were inferior to the British. Ignorant of our language, unaccustomed to woods, with their very heavy dress, they were less capable of active and quick operations.

The splendid issue of the subsequent campaign, and the triumph of Gates has been noticed, as well as the instrumentality of Morgan in producing the auspicious event. Great and effectual as were his exertions, general Gates did not even mention him in his official despatches. The cause of this cruel omission was not known but to a few.

General Morgan says, that immediately after the surrender of Burgoyne, he visited Gates on business, when he was taken aside by the general and confidentially told, that the main army was extremely dissatisfied with the conduct of the war by the commander in chief, and that several of the best officers threatened to resign unless a change took place. Morgan perfectly understood the views of Gates in this conference, although he was then a stranger to the correspondence which he had held with Conway and others, and sternly replied, “That he had one favor to ask of him, which was, never to mention that detestable subject to him again; for under no other commander in chief than Washington would he serve.”

Camp at Saratoga, 18th October, 1777.


I have the satisfaction to present your excellency with the convention of Saratoga A, by which his excellency lieutenant general Burgoyne has surrendered himself and his whole army into my hands; and they are now upon their march to Boston. This signal and important event is the more glorious, as it was effected with so little loss to the army of the United States.

This letter will be presented to your excellency by my adjutant general, colonel Wilkinson, to whom I must beg leave to refer your excellency, for the particulars that brought this great business to so happy and fortunate conclusion.

I desire to be permitted to recommend this gallant officer in the warmest manner to congress; and intreat that he may continue in his present place, with the —— of a brigadier general. The honorable congress will believe me when I assure them, that from the beginning of this war, I have not met with a more promising military genius than colonel Wilkinson; and whose services have been of the greatest benefit to this army. I am your excellency’s most obedient, humble servant,


His excellency JOHN HANCOCK, Esq.


Articles of convention between lieutenant general Burgoyne and major general Gates.

1st. The troops under lieutenant general Burgoyne are to march out of their camp with the honors of war and the artillery of the intrenchments to the verge of the river where the old fort stood, where the arms and artillery are to be left; the arms to be piled by word of command of their own officers.

2d. A free passage to be granted to the army under lieutenant general Burgoyne to Great Britain, upon condition of not serving again in North America during the present contest; and the port of Boston is assigned for the entry of the transports to receive the troops whenever general Howe shall so order.

3d. Should any cartel take place by which the army under lieutenant general Burgoyne, or any part of it, may be exchanged, the foregoing articles to be void as far as such exchange shall be made.

4th. The army under lieutenant general Burgoyne to march to Massachusetts Bay, by the easiest, most expeditious, and convenient route; and to be quartered in, near, or as convenient as possible, to Boston, that the march of the troops may not be delayed, when transports arrive to receive them.

5th. The troops to be supplied on the march, and during their being in quarters, with provisions by general Gates’s orders, at the same rate of rations as the troops of his own army; and, if possible, the officers’ horses and cattle are to be supplied with forage at the usual rate.

6th. All officers to retain their carriages, ball horses, and other cattle; and no baggage to be molested or searched, lieutenant general Burgoyne giving his honor, there are no public stores secreted therein. Major general Gates will, of course, take the necessary measures for the due performance of this article. Should any carriages be wanting for the transportation of officers’ baggage, they are, if possible, to be supplied by the country at the usual rates.

7th. Upon the march, and during the time the army shall remain in quarters in the Massachusetts Bay, the officers are not, as far as circumstances will admit, to be separated from their men. The officers are to be quartered according to rank, and are not to be hindered from assembling their men for roll calling and other purposes of regularity.

8th. All corps whatever of general Burgoyne’s army, whether composed of salters, batteaumen, artificers, drivers, independent companies, and followers of the army of whatever country, shall be included in the fullest sense and utmost extent of the above articles, and comprehended, in every respect, as British subjects.

9th. All Canadians, and persons belonging to the Canadian establishment, consisting of salters, batteaumen, artificers, drivers, independent companies, and any other followers of the army, who came under no particular description, are to be permitted to return there. They are to be conducted immediately, by the shortest route, to the first British post on Lake George; are to be supplied with provision in the same manner as the other troops, and are to be bound by the same conditions of not serving during the contest in North America.

10th. Passports to be immediately granted to three officers not exceeding the rank of captain, who shall be appointed by lieutenant general Burgoyne to carry despatches to sir William Howe, sir Guy Carleton,and to Great Britain, by the way of New York; and major general Gates engages the public faith, that these despatches shall not be opened. These officers are to set out immediately after receiving their despatches, and to travel by the shortest routes, and in the most expeditious manner.

11th. During the stay of the troops in Massachusetts Bay, the officers are to be admitted to parole, and are to be allowed to wear their side arms.

12th. Should the army under lieutenant general Burgoyne find it necessary to send for their clothing and other baggage to Canada, they are to be permitted to do it, in the most convenient manner, and the necessary passports granted for that purpose.

13th. These articles are to be mutually signed and exchanged to-morrow morning at 9 o’clock, and the troops under lieutenant general Burgoyne are to march out of their intrenchments at 3 o’clock in the afternoon.


Camp at Saratoga, October 16, 1777.

Extract of a letter from general Washington to R. H. Lee, Esq., dated

Philadelphia, 28th October, 1777.

Although the surrender of general Burgoyne is a great and glorious event, highly honorable to our arms, and to those who were immediately opposed to him; and although I am perfectly satisfied that the critical situation in which general Gates was likely to be thrown (by the approach of general Clinton up the North river) would not allow him to insist on a more perfect surrender; I am nevertheless convinced that this event will not equal our expectations: and that without great precautions and very delicate management, we shall have all these men (if not the officers) opposed to us in the spring. Without the necessary precautions, (as I have just observed) I think this will happen: and unless great delicacy is used in the precautions, a plea will be given them, and they will justify a breach of the covenant on their part. Do they not declare (many of them) that no faith is to be held with rebels? Did not the English do the very thing I am now suspecting them of after the convention of Closterseven, upon changing their commander? Will they hold better faith with us than they did with the French? I am persuaded myself that they will not: and yet I do not see how it is to be prevented without a direct violation of the articles hy ourselves; as (by attempting to guard against the evil) we give them a plea of justification on their part.

[96] The movement to the right was prompt for militia, and did credit to Davidson and his corps, but not so prompt as the occasion required. Had brigadier Davidson’s troops been regulars, the change would have been effected before the British gained the shore. With such advantage on our part the resistance would have been more effectual, and the injury to the enemy greatly augmented. Davidson, too, would probably have been saved.

Lord Cornwallis’s horse was shot under him and fell as soon as he got upon the shore. Leslie’s horses were carried down the stream, and with difficulty saved; and O’Hara’s tumbled over with him in the water. This evinces the zeal of the pursuit; for, in other circumstances, the British general would have waited for the further fall of the waters.

[97] Lieutenant colonel Tarleton, in his Campaigns, speaks of fifty being killed; but other officers, who examined the ground, assert they found but ten.

[98] To an attentive observer of the events during our war very many strong exemplifications of providential succor occur, besides the two just noticed. Brigadier general Weedon served under Washington, and was with him when he made the brilliant manœuvre from before Cornwallis in Trenton; leaving his position in the night, and falling suddenly the next morning on the enemy at Princeton.

General Weedon was one of the council of war, called by the commander in chief, to advise in his then perilous situation. When the members met the ground was so deep and soft, that it was presumed the artillery would necessarily be left on the road. Before the council broke up, so immediate had been the change of the weather, that the ground became hard, and all apprehensions on the score of the artillery vanished. This information the writer received from general Weedon; who remarked, that so evidently advantageous was this sudden change, that it was universally understood by the troops, and as universally ascribed to a protecting Providence.

[99] The reader will take notice, whenever he meets with the term right, or left, he is to ask himself in what direction the armies are moving, which will explain the import of the term. At present we are moving north, and lord Cornwallis being on the upper route, was relatively to our left.

[100] The route we had marched being deemed safe, as it was known that his lordship was on a parallel road to our left, the lesser precautions were applied to it; nevertheless, the enemy’s advance would have been notified in due time from the horse patrole, or from the infantry piquet, should he have avoided or intercepted the patrole—not a probable occurrence.

[101] This ill-fated boy was one of the band of music, and exclusively devoted in the field to his horse, used in conveying orders. Too small to wield a sword, he was armed only with one pistol, as was the custom in the legion; that sort of weapon being considered of little import in action: now he had not even his pistol, it being with the countryman mounted on his horse.

[102] The shoes were generally worn out, the body clothes much tattered, and not more than a blanket for four men. The light corps was rather better off; but among its officers there was not a blanket for every three: so that among those whose hour admitted rest, it was an established rule, that at every fire, one should, in routine, keep upon his legs to preserve the fire in vigor. The tents were never used by the corps under Williams during the retreat. The heat of the fires was the only protection from rain, and sometimes snow: it kept the circumjacent ground and air dry, while imparting warmth to the body.

Provisions were not to be found in abundance, so swift was our progress. The single meal allowed us was always scanty, though good in quality and very nutritious, being bacon and corn meal.

[103] As soon as Greene adopted the plan prepared by the quarter master general for crossing the Dan, Carrington detached the same captain Smith, of the Maryland line, heretofore employed by him in the examination of the Roanoke river. The service was performed highly to the satisfaction of the general, and much to captain Smith’s credit.

[104] There are two sorts of victory,—that, generally understood, when two armies meet, fight, and when one yields to the other; or, when the object of contest is given up without battle, by voluntary relinquishment, as was now the case, rather than risk battle.

[105] Newbern and Hillsborough were the alternate seats of royal government in North Carolina; as were Burlington and Perth Amboy in the province of New Jersey. To the west of Newbern lies Wilmington, on the Cape Fear river, convenient to the Scotch emigrants’ settlement on the waters of that river, whose inhabitants had for some years past in the character of regulators, resisted the royal authority, but were now firm abettors of kingly government. It is one of the few towns convenient to ship navigation: consequently, necessarily occupied by the British general. Here all his supplies of every sort were brought from New York and Charleston, and deposited till further orders, in care of the garrison.

[106] This officer, as has been mentioned, had proceeded with his militia to Pittsylvania court-house to discharge his men, whose time of service had expired, and for the purpose of placing the public arms in the magazines allotted for their reception. He was well apprised of Greene’s difficulties; and hearing, on his way home, by some reports that had overtaken him, that these difficulties were increased, and that it was very likely that his army might be crippled before he crossed the Dan; Stevens, instead of going home, returned to camp, taking with him some of the militia of Pittsylvania, collected by the exertions of the county lieutenant, determined to share the fate of Greene and of his army.

[107] Had Pyle accidentally arrayed upon the left of the road, he would have been found on the right of his regiment, the flank first reached by the column of the horse. Some pretext must have been adopted to have moved on to the other flank, so as to place the horse in the requisite posture, before lieutenant colonel Lee could make the desired communication; therefore it was fortunate that he should have chosen the side of the road on which he was found posted.

[108] This transaction is thus circumstantially given to repel the unfounded stignna attached to the officer and corps engaged with colonel Pyle. Mr. Stedman, (of whose impartiality and respect for truth I have acknowledged my conviction) has from misinformation been led upon this occasion into a palpable mistake, or he would have refrained from the following observation: “when at last it became manifest, they called out for quarter, but no quarter was granted; and between two and three hundred of them were inhumanly butchered while in the act of begging for mercy. Humanity shudders at the recital of so foul a massacre; but cold and unfeeling policy avows it as the most effectual means of intimidating the friends of royal government.” So far from its being a “foul massacre,” growing out of cold and unfeeling policy, it was not foul, and was unintentional; and one of the two corps of cavalry, belonging to the army of Greene, was hazarded for the express purpose of preventing the necessity of imbruing our hands in the blood of our fellow citizens. The fire commenced upon us, and self-preservation commanded the limited destruction which ensued. Only ninety of the loyalists were killed; not between two and three hundred, as Mr. Stedman states: and less than ninety could not have been spared from the close condition of the dragoons, and the necessity of crushing resistance instantly. Had the officer or corps been capable of massacre, it was only necessary to have ordered pursuit, and not a man of the enemy would have escaped. So far from doing so, Lee resumed his march, leaving all that had dispersed to secure themselves without interruption.

[109] No country in the world affords better riders than the United States, especially the states south of Pennsylvania. The boys from seven years of age begin to mount horses; riding without saddle, and often, in the fields, when sent for a horse, without bridles. They go to mill on horseback, and perform all the other small domestic services mounted. Thus they become so completely versed in the art of riding by the time they reach puberty, as to equal the most expert horsemen any where.

[110] The twenty-five riflemen were selected from their superior excellence as marksmen. It was no uncommon amusement among them to put an apple on the point of a ramrod, and holding it in ihe hand with the arm extended, to permit their comrades, known to be expert, to fire at it; when many balls would pass through the apple; and yet lieutenant colonel Webster, mounted upon a stout horse, in point blank shot, slowly moving through a deep water course, was singled out by this party, who fired, sereatim, thirty-two or three times at him, and neither struck him nor his horse.

[111] Colonels Clarke and Preston had been with the light troops for some days; succeeding the corps under brigadier Pickens, now returned home. Colonel Lynch had lately joined, commanding one of the battalions of the Virginia militia, which arrived under brigadier Lawson.

[112] Upon Lee’s junction with Clarke, he found a packet from general Greene to lord Cornwallis, which he sent off the ensuing morning by cornet Middleton, of South Carolina, with a flag. The cornet reached the British piquet just after the captain had breakfasted, and was politely invited to take breakfast, while the packet for his lordship should be sent to headquarters, from whence a reply would be forwarded, if requisite, which Middleton could convey. Cornwallis was on his rounds, agreeably to his custom; and soon after Middleton had finished his breakfast, called at the piquet, when he was informed by the captain, of the packet from general Greene, with his detention of the officer for the answer, if any was requisite. His lordship dismounting, entered the captain’s quarters, where cornet Middleton was introduced to him. Presuming from his dress that he belonged to Lee’s legion, he asked if he did not belong to that corps; and being answered in the affirmative, with a smile he significantly inquired where it had been the preceding night. The amiable Middleton, somewhat surprised and confounded at a query so unexpected, with evident confusion replied, that it had not been far off. Upon which lord Cornwallis familiarly said, the object of his inquiry was unimportant, the matter to which it related being past; and that he asked the information to gratify his curiosity. Middleton, blushing, then told him, that lieutenant colonel Lee had received intelligence of his lordship’s escort, with the baggage and stores, being lost in the night, and instantly proceeded in the expectation of putting them in the right course. This idea tickling the British general, he laughingly asked, “Well, why did he not do it.” Because, says Middleton, we got lost ourselves; traversing the roads all night, and as it appeared afterwards within two miles of our much desired prize. Turning to his aids, Cornwallis said, “You see I was not mistaken.”

[113] This is not stated with a view to extol one, or disparage the other corps; but merely to state the fact. Lieutenant colonel Tarleton was obliged to use such horses as he could get; whereas his opponent had the whole South to select out of. The consequence was, the British dragoons were mounted upon small weak horses: those of the legion on stout, active horses, and kept in the highest condition. When they met, the momentum of the one must crush the other; and if he fled he could not escape from his enemy, so excellently mounted. There was very little credit, with such superior means, due to the Americans upon victory; whereas, the disgrace of defeat would have been extreme, and Lee’s corps ought to have been decimated.

[114] The British sustained a much heavier loss in killed and wounded than we did. His fire was innocent, overshooting the cavalry entirely; whose caps and accoutrements were all stuck with green twigs, cut by the British ball out of the large oaks in the meetinghouse yard, under which the cavalry received the volley from the guards. Some of the infantry and riflemen were killed, and more wounded: among them was lieutenant Snowden, of the legion infantry, who, with most of the wounded, was necessarily left on the field.

Lee, after the battle of Guilford, wrote to lieutenant colonel Tarleton, asking his care of the wounded of the legion and rifle corps; it being common for officers, in the habit of meeting in the course of service, mutually to solicit such favors. Tarleton very politely answered by an amanuensis, that he would, with pleasure, execute the request; and apologised for not writing himself; saying, that he had received a ball in his right hand in our morning rencontre. Captain Schuty, of the guards, was badly wounded, with other officers and soldiers of that corps.

[115] “After passing through the guards into the open ground, Washington, who always led the van, perceived an officer surrounded by several persons, appearing to be aids-de-camp. Believing this to be lord Cornwallis, he rushed on with the hope of making him prisoner, when he was arrested by an accident. His cap fell from his head, and as he leaped to the ground to recover it, the officer leading his column was shot through the body and rendered incapable of managing his horse. The animal wheeled round with his rider and galloped off the field: he was followed by all the cavalry, who supposed this movement had been directed.”—Marshall’s Life of Washington.

[116] Colonel Greene was much dissatisfied with the general’s selection of his regiment for ihls service, though esteemed among the most honorable,—so anxious was the veteran officer to be led at once into keen conflict.

When it was announced upon the first of the retreat, that the British were close advancing, he became better humored; but soon the pursuit was discontinued, and his sourness returned. His friends would often console him by stating his selection as an evidence of the confidence reposed in him as a soldier. This would not satisfy the colonel, who never failed to reply that he did not like such sort of distinction; and he hoped the general would, upon the next occasion, attach to some other regiment the honor of covering his retreat. Getting to the general’s ear, he took the first opportunity of telling the colonel, whom he much esteemed and respected, that he had heard he did not relish the post assigned to his regiment the other day. No, that I did not, replied the old colonel. Well, rejoined Greene, be patient: you shall have the first blow the next time. This delighted the colonel; and he always reckoned upon the promised boon with pleasure.

[117] Never did two generals exert themselves more than did these rival leaders upon this occasion. Long withheld from each other by the sagacious conduct of Greene, until he acquired sufficient strength to risk battle, they seized with ardor the opportunity at length presented of an appeal to the sword. This decision was wise in both; and every step taken by the one and by the other, as well in preparation for battle, as in the battle, demonstrated superior abilities.

Greene’s position was masterly, as was the ground selected for the combat peculiarly adapted to his views and troops. Cornwallis saw the difficulties thrown in his way by the skill of his antagonist, and diminished their weight by the disposition of his force as far as it was practicable. Having done all that was possible to accomplish their purpose, no attention was omitted, no peril avoided in the course of the action to produce the desired issue. They exposed their persons, unconscious of danger, and self-devoted to national triumph. Upon one occasion Greene was nearly passed by a body of the enemy within thirty paces of him, when major Pendleton, one of his aids, discovered them. Luckily a copse of woods intervened, which covered Greene’s return to our line.

Soon afterwards Cornwallis, seeing the discomfiture of one battalion of the guards, repaired in person to direct the measures for the recovery of the lost ground; when, by the dauntless exposure of himself, he was placed in extreme danger. It was upon this occasion that he ordered his artillery to open through his flying guards to stop Washington and Howard. Brigadier O’Hara remonstrated, by exclaiming, that the fire would destroy themselves. “True,” replied Cornwallis; “but this is a necessary evil which we must endure to arrest impending destruction.”

[118] Our field return, a few days before the action, rates Greene’s army at four thousand four hundred and forty-nine, horse, foot and artillery; of which, one thousand six hundred and seventy were continentals, the residue militia. The enemy rate us at upwards of five thousand. He is mistaken: we did not reach that number, though some call us seven thousand.

Lord Cornwallis’s army engaged, is put down at one thousand four hundred and forty-nine infantry; the cavalry has been generally estimated at three hundred; allowing the artillery to make two hundred, it will bring the British force nearly to two thousand; probably the real number at Guilford court-house. Lieutenant colonel Hamilton, with his own regiment, one hundred infantry of the line, and twenty dragoons, was left with the baggage sent off on the evening of the 14th to Bell’s mill. The British force in toto may be put down at two thousand four hundred: one hundred less than it was when lord Cornwallis destroyed his baggage at Ramsour’s mill, notwithstanding the companies of infantry raised while he lay at Hillsborough and other small accessions. See Appendix, S and S.

[119] We shall here relate an anecdote of the late captain Maynard, of the guards. He was naturally of a cheeriul disposition and great hilarity, and in several actions during the course of the war, he had shown great gallantry; but a certain presentiment of his fate on the day of the action at Guilford possessed his mind, which presentiment was too fatally realized. While the troops were marching to form the line of battle, he became gloomy, and gave way to despondency. Not less than two or three times did he tell colonel Norton, who commanded the battalion, that he felt himself very uncomfortable, and did not like the business at all. Colonel, now the honorable major general Norton, endeavored to laugh him out of his melancholy ideas, but in vain; for even after the cannonade began, he reiterated the forebodings of what he conceived was to happen. Early in the action he received a wound in his leg. Unable to proceed, he requested Mr. Wilson, the adjutant of the guards, to lend him his horse, that he might ride on with the battalion; and when in the act of mounting, another shot went through his lungs and incapacitated him from proceeding. After being conveyed in a litter to Wilmington, and there lingering a few days, he died of his wounds, greatly regretted.—Stedman.

[120] The disproportion in loss on this day is readily to be accounted for. We had great advantage in the ground, and were sheltered in various points until the enemy approached very near; while he was uncovered, and exposed from his first step to his last. We had spent the previous day in ease, and the night in rest; he had been preparing during the day, and marching most of the night. We were acquainted with wood and tree fighting; he ignorant of both. And lastly, we were trained to take aim and fire low, he was not so trained; and from this cause, or from the composition of his cartridge, (too much powder for the lead) he always overshot.

[121] Fatigued as were the British troops by a night march and the late action, after a small rest they were employed in collecting the wounded of both armies, which were indiscriminately taken the best care of the situation would admit; but having no tents, and the houses being few, many of both armies were necessarily exposed to the deluge of rain, which fell during the night; and it was said, that not less than fifty died before morning.


Nine o’clock, P.M. March 12th, 1781.

Lieutenant colonel Lee,

I have this moment got your note. I am perfectly agreed with you in opinion, that to attack the enemy on their march will be best. I have written to colonel Williams to that purpose.

It will be next to impossible to get the militia to send away their horses. They are so attached to this mode of carrying on the war that they will not listen to any other. Frequent attempts have been made without effect. However, we can try the experiment: sound some of the more sensible on the subject. My letter must be short, as I write in pain. Your affectionate, &c.



Headquarters, 11 o’clock, March 21st, 1781.

Lieutenant colonel Lee,

Your letter dated at New Garden, yesterday, has this moment come to hand. Our army marched yesterday in the direct route for Magee’s Ordinary, near the head waters of Rocky river, which will be twelve miles from Bell’s mill. We expect to get about two or three miles beyond Passley to night. We have got provisions to draw, cartridges to make, and several other matters to attend to, which will oblige us to halt a little earlier than common.

I beg you will try to forward me the best intelligence you can get of the enemy’s situation this morning, and whether they move or not.

I mean to fight the enemy again, and wish you to have your legion and riflemen ready for action on the shortest notice. If in the mean time you can attempt any thing which promises an advantage, put it in execution. Lord Cornwallis must be soundly beaten before he will relinquish his hold. I am, dear sir, &c.


[124] The British writers speak in very severe terms of the cruelties inflicted by the state authorities, and individuals unchecked by government, on the loyalists. The state government was not cruel, although extremely vigilant; and this stigma being unfounded, ought to be repelled. I select two of the many presumed illustrations, which might be produced, of this erroneous, though accredited, accusation. Mr. Stedman tells us, that in the course of his duty he fell in with a very sensible quaker in North Carolina, “who being interrogated about the state of the country, replied, that it was the general wish of the people to be united to Britain; but as they had been so often deceived in promises of support, and the British had so frequently relinquished posts, that the people were now afraid to join the British army, lest they should leave the province; in which case the resentment of the revolutioners would be exercised with more cruelty:—that although they might escape or go with the army, yet such was the diabolical conduct of the people, that they would inflict the severest punishment upon their families. Perhaps, said the quaker, thou art not acquainted with the conduct of thy enemies towards those who wish well to the cause thou art engaged in. There are some who have lived for two and even three years in the woods without daring to go to their houses, but have been secretly supported by their families. Others, having walked out of their houses on a promise of their being safe, have proceeded but a few yards before they have been shot. Others have been tied to a tree and severely whipped. I will tell thee of one instance of cruelly. A party surrounded the house of a loyalist; a few entered; the man and his wife were in bed: the husband was shot dead by the side of his wife. The writer of this replied, that those circumstances were horrid; but under what government could they be so happy as by enjoying the privileges of Englishmen. True, said the quaker; but the people have experienced such distress, that I believe they would submit to any government in the world to obtain peace.” Mr. Stedman assures us that his friend, the quaker, was a man of irreproachable manners, and well known as such to some gentlemen of the British army. But to confirm this tale, he adds another, which he states as known to the whole army. “A gentleman, still residing in North Carolina, and therefore his name is concealed, reported that the day before the British army reached Cross creek a man bent with age joined it. He had scarcely the appearance of being human. He wore the skin of a racoon for his hat, his beard was some inches long, and he was so thin that he looked as if he had made his escape from Surgeons’ hall. He wore no shirt; his whole dress being skins of different animals. On the morning after, when this distressed man came to draw his provisions, Mr. Price, the deputy muster master general of the provincial forces, and the commissary, asked him several questions. He said that he had lived for three years in the woods, under ground; that he had been frequently sought after by the Americans, and was certain of instant death whenever he should be taken. That he supported himself by what he got in the woods; that acorns served him for bread; that they had from long use become agreeable to him. That he had a family, some of whom, once or twice in the year came to him in the woods. That his only crime was being a loyalist, and having given offence to one of the republican leaders in that part of the country where he used to reside.”

It excites in my mind all the surprise which Mr. Stedman must have felt when he heard these tales, on reading them from his pen. He believed in their truth, I am sure, or he would not have recorded them; yet it seems to me, to require a stock of credulity not common to soldiers to have seriously regarded either the quaker or the escaped tenant from Surgeons’ hall. Suppose Mr. Stedman had doubted for a moment, and the odd tale warranted at least a pause before belief; suppose in this moment of doubt he had asked the quaker, “How came it, that when for two years we have had a post at Cambden, and for months another at Cheraw hills, (both convenient to the district in which Mr. Stedman held this conversation;) that last year the British headquarters were at Charlotte, and this year lord Cornwallis had traversed the state; how came it that the outlying, maltreated loyalists did not resort to one of the points of safely so near to them? The same patience and caution which secured them from discovery, lying out in the woods for years, could not have failed to secure safe passage to some one of our posts, which required but days.”

To this query the quaker would have replied, “Why really, friend, I cannot say; but I assure thee, that I have told thee precisely what was currently reported.” If further pressed, the sensible quaker would have added, “I never believed it myself; and I wonder how thou canst take it so seriously.”

There is a feature in the quaker’s tale, which lieutenant colonel Webster would not have misunderstood had the conversation been addressed to him. It is his bitter sarcasm on British operations, when accounting for the cautious conduct of the loyalists. He speaks of “deception in promise,” and “relinquishment of posts.” Mr. Stedman seems to have given no attention to this just admonition; but is entirely engrossed with the accusation levelled against the American people; which was nothing more than a report; as the quaker does not say, (the interrogation being omitted by Mr. Stedman,) that he knew any of the particulars stated by him, from his own knowledge. It appears evident to me, that the defamation was only meant as a pleasing supplement to the philippic he had ventured to pronounce against the conduct of the war. The quaker goes on to add, that a husband was shot in bed with his wife. Such a thing is possible, but very improbable, and entirely repugnant to the American character, which is tender and respectful to the fair sex. It would not have been difficult for the party to have taken the individual off to a fit place for their purpose, and thus to have spared their own as well as the feelings of an innocent woman. But here again we find the quaker does not assert it from his own knowledge; and yet it is ushered to the world as a truth. To a Briton, who should accredit this fable, I answer, that we are descended with his countrymen from one stock; that he would not believe such stuff told upon an Englishman, and that he ought not to believe it when applied to an American. We have not degenerated by transplantation, notwithstanding Mr. Buffon’s reveries, as our short history testifies.

The second anecdote fits so exactly the first, that I should treat it as a fabrication, made to aid the quaker, but for my just respect for the character of Mr. Stedman. Considering it as a real occurrence, I have no doubt but that the unhappy being was deranged. Recollect that he joined the army the day before it reached Cross creek, the centre of an extensive settlement of Highlanders, by Mr. Stedman’s own authority devoted to the royal cause. His weak state of body forbad long travel; and his singular dress exposed him to notice and detection if his journey to camp had been from a distance. It clearly results that the Surgeons’ hall tenant had been in the vicinity or in the midst of the Highland settlement; and yet from lunacy, I presume, he preferred the solitude of a cavern and the food of acorns to the hospitable fare which distressed loyalists was sure to receive from the Highland emigrants.

Who can believe that a being thus acting possessed his senses? No rational unprejudiced man can so believe. But why did not Mr. Stedman give us the name and place of residence of this miserable? Secrecy in this case was unnecessary; and the fallacy of the accusation might readily have been confronted with legal testimony. The fact is, that the constitution of the southern people is warmer than that of their northern brethren, or of their late enemy; consequently the war in some parts of Georgia and the Carolinas was conducted with great bitterness among the inhabitants, and some tragical scenes took place on both sides. These were however confined to a few neighborhoods and to a few instances. But the demeanor of the mass of the people was kind and forgiving, the policy of congress and of the state governments humane, and the conduct of the army amiable. Seldom, during the war, was even retaliation resorted to, though often menaced; and surely it cannot be pretended that we had not ample opportunity to gratify such menace if it had comported with our disposition. This lengthy discussion has taken place from a desire to vindicate the national character from unjust detraction.

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