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royalists. "If we can but delay him for a day or two," said Greene, "he must be ruined." Greene, in the mean while, remained with his main force on the northern bank of the Dan; waiting to ascertain his lordship's real designs, and ready to cross at a moment's warning.
The movements of Cornwallis, for a day or two, were of a dubious nature, designed to perplex his opponents; on the 20th, however, he took post at Hillsborough. Here he erected the royal standard, and issued a proclamation, stating that, whereas it had pleased Divine Providence to prosper the operations of his majesty's arms in driving the rebel army out of the province, he invited all his loyal subjects to hasten to this standard with their arms and ten days' provisions, to assist in suppressing the remains of rebellion, and re-establishing good order and constitutional government.
By another instrument, all who could raise independent companies were called upon to give in their names at head-quarters, and a bounty in money and lands was promised to those who should enlist under them. The companies thus raised were to be formed into regiments.
These sounding appeals produced but little effect on the people of the surrounding districts. Many hundreds, says Tarleton, rode into the camp to talk over the proclamation, inquire the news of the day, and take a view of the king's troops. The generality seemed desirous of peace, but averse from any exertion to procure it. They acknowledged that the Continentals had been chased out of the province, but apprehended they would soon return. "Some of the most zealous," adds he, "promised to raise companies, and even regiments; but their followers and dependents were slow to enlist." Tarleton himself was forth
PROCLAMATION OF CORNWALLIS.
with detached with the cavalry and a small body of infantry, to a region of country lying between the Haw and Deep Rivers, to bring on a considerable number of loyalists who were said to be assembling there.
Rumor, in the mean time, had magnified the effect of his lordship's proclamations. Word was brought to Greene, that the tories were flocking from all quarters to the royal standard. Seven companies, it was said, had been raised in a single day. At this time the reinforcements to the American camp had been little more than six hundred Virginia militia, under General SteGreene saw that at this rate, if Cornwallis were allowed to remain undisturbed, he would soon have complete command of North Carolina; he boldly determined, therefore, to recross the Dan at all hazards with the scanty force at his command, and give his lordship check. In this spirit he broke up his camp and crossed the river on the 23d.
In the mean time, Lee and Pickens, who were scouting the country about Hillsborough, received information of Tarleton's recruiting expedition to the region between the Haw and Deep Rivers. There was no foe they were more eager to cope with; and they resolved to give him a surprise. Having forded the Haw one day about noon, they learnt from a countryman that Tarleton was encamped about three miles off, that his horses were unsaddled, and that every thing indicated confident security. They now pushed on under covert of the woods, prepared to give the bold partisan a blow after his own fashion. Before they reached the place Tarleton had marched on; they captured two of his staff, however, who had remained behind, settling with the people of a farm-house for supplies furnished to the detachment.
Being informed that Tarleton was to halt for the night at
the distance of six miles, they still trusted to surprise him. On the way, however, they had an encounter with a body of three or four hundred mounted royalists, armed with rifles, and commanded by a Colonel Pyle, marching in quest of Tarleton. As Lee with his cavalry was in the advance, he was mistaken for Tarleton, and hailed with loyal acclamations. He favored the mistake, and was taking measures to capture the royalists, when some of them, seeing the infantry under Pickens, discovered their error and fired upon the rear-guard. The cavalry instantly charged upon them; ninety were cut down and slain, and a great number wounded; among the latter was Colonel Pyle himself, who took refuge among thickets on the borders of a piece of water which still bears his name. The Americans alleged in excuse for the slaughter, that it was provoked by their being attacked; and that the sabre was used, as a continued firing might alarm Tarleton's camp. We do not wonder, however, that British writers pronounced it a massacre; though it was but following the example set by Tarleton himself, in this ruthless campaign.
After all, Lee and Pickens missed the object of their enterprise. The approach of night and the fatigue of their troops, made them defer their attack upon Tarleton until morning. In the mean time, the latter had received an express from Cornwallis, informing him that Greene had passed the Dan, and ordering him to return to Hillsborough as soon as possible. He hastened to obey. Lee with his legion was in the saddle before daybreak; but Tarleton's troops were already on the march. "The legion," writes Lee, "accustomed to night expeditions, had been in the habit of using pine-torch for flambeau. Supplied with this,
1781.] LEE AND PICKENS SCOUR THE COUNTRY. 241
though the morning was dark, the enemy's trail was distinctly discovered, whenever a divergency took place in his route.
Before sunrise, however, Tarleton had forded the Haw, and "Light Horse Harry" gave over the pursuit, consoling himself that though he had not effected the chief object of his enterprise, a secondary one was completely executed, which would repress the tory spirit just beginning to burst forth. "Fortune," writes
he in his magniloquent way, "Fortune, which sways so imperiously the affairs of war, demonstrated throughout the operation its supreme control.* Nothing was omitted on the part of the Americans, to give to the expedition the desired termination; but the very bright prospects which for a time presented themselves, were suddenly overcast ;-the capricious goddess gave us Pyle and saved Tarleton."
The re-appearance of Greene and his army in North Carolina, heralded by the scourings of Lee and Pickens, disconcerted the schemes of Lord Cornwallis. The recruiting service was interrupted. Many royalists who were on the way to his camp returned home. Forage and provisions became scarce in the neighborhood. He found himself, he said, "amongst timid friends and adjoining to inveterate rebels." On the 26th, therefore, he abandoned Hillsborough, threw himself across the Haw, and encamped near Alamance Creek, one of its principal tributaries, in a country favorable to supplies and with a tory population. His position was commanding, at the point of concurrence of roads from Salisbury, Guilford, High Rockford, Cross Creek, and Hillsborough. It covered also the communication with Wilmington, where a dépôt of military stores, so important to his half-destitute army, had recently been established.
*Lee's Memoirs of the War, i, 319.
Greene, with his main army, took post about fifteen miles above him, on the heights between Troublesome Creek and Reedy Fork, one of the tributaries of the Haw. His plan was to cut the enemy off from the upper counties; to harass him by skirmishes, but to avoid a general battle; thus gaining time for the arrival of reinforcements daily expected. He rarely lay more than two days in a place, and kept his light troops under Pick ́ens and Williams between him and the enemy; hovering about the latter; intercepting his intelligence; attacking his foraging parties, and striking at his flanks whenever exposed. Sharp skirmishes occurred between them and Tarleton's cavalry with various success. The country being much of a wilderness, obliged both parties to be on the alert; but the Americans, accustomed to bush-fighting, were not easily surprised.
On the 6th of March, Cornwallis, learning that the light troops under Williams were very carelessly posted, put his army suddenly in motion, and crossed the Alamance in a thick fog; with the design to beat up their quarters, drive them in upon the main army, and bring Greene to action should he come to their assistance. His movement was discovered by the American patrols, and the alarm given. Williams hastily called in his detachments, and retreated with his light troops across Reedy Fork, while Lee with his legion manoeuvred in front of the enemy. A stand was made by the Americans at Wetzell's Mill, but they were obliged to retire with the loss of fifty killed and wounded. Cornwallis did not pursue; evening was approaching, and he had failed in his main object; that of bringing Greene to action. The latter, fixed in his resolve of avoiding a conflict, had retreated across the Haw, in order to keep up his communication with the roads by which he expected his supplies and reinforce