« PrejšnjaNaprej »
the least intelligence of what was going on, nor to be aware that hostile troops were upon the heights opposite, until the latter displayed themselves in full array, their arms flashing in the morning sunshine, and their banners, American and French, unfolded to the breeze.
While the enemy was thus held in check, Washington and De Rochambeau, accompanied by engineers and by their staffs, set out under the escort of a troop of dragoons to reconnoitre the enemy's position and works from every point of view. It was a wide reconnoissance, extending across the country ontside of the British lines from the Hudson to the Sound. The whole was done slowly and scientifically, exact notes and diagrams being made of every thing that might be of importance in future operations. As the "cortége" moved slowly along, or paused to make observation, it was cannonaded from the distant works, or from the armed vessels stationed on the neighboring waters, but without injuring it or quickening its movements.
According to De Rochambeau's account, the two reconnoitring generals were at one time in an awkward and hazardous predicament. They had passed, he said, to an island separated by an arm of the sea from the enemy's post on Long Island, and the engineers were employed in making scientific observations, regardless of the firing of small vessels stationed in the Sound. During this time, the two generals, exhausted by fatigue and summer heat, slept under shelter of a hedge. De Rochambeau was the first to awake, and was startled at observing the state of the tide, which during their slumber had been rapidly rising. Awakening Washington and calling his attention to it, they hastened to the causeway by which they had crossed from the mainland. It was covered with water. Two small boats were
brought, in which they embarked with the saddles and bridles of their horses. Two American dragoons then returned in the boats to the shore of the island, where the horses remained under care of their comrades. Two of the horses, which were good swimmers, were held by the bridle and guided across; the rest were driven into the water by the smack of the whip, and followed their leaders; the boats then brought over the rest of the party. De Rochambeau admired this manœuvre as a specimen of American tactics in the management of wild horses; but he thought it lucky that the enemy knew nothing of their embarrassment, which lasted nearly an hour, otherwise they might literally have been caught napping.
While the enemy's works had been thoroughly reconnoitred, light troops and lancers had performed their duty in scouring the neighborhood. The refugee posts which had desolated the country were broken up. Most of the refugees, Washington says, had fled and hid themselves in secret places; some got over by stealth to the adjacent islands, and to the enemy's shipping, and a few were caught. Having effected the purposes of their expedition, the two generals set off with their troops, on the 23d, for their encampment, where they arrived about midnight.
The immediate effect of this threatening movement of Washington, appears in a letter of Sir Henry Clinton to Cornwallis, dated July 26th, requesting him to order three regiments to New York from Carolina. "I shall probably want them as well as the troops you may be able to spare me from the Chesapeake for such offensive or defensive operations as may offer in this quarter." *
*Correspondence relative to operations in Virginia, p. 153.
EFFECT OF THE RECONNOISANCE.
And Washington writes to Lafayette a few days subsequently: "I think we have already effected one part of the plan of the campaign settled at Weathersfield, that is, giving a substantial relief to the Southern States, by obliging the enemy to recall a considerable part of their force from thence. Our views must now be turned towards endeavoring to expel them totally from those States, if we find ourselves incompetent to the siege of New York."
We will now give the reader a view of affairs in Virginia, and show how they were ultimately affected by these military manoeuvres and demonstrations in the neighborhood of King's Bridge.
MOVEMENTS AND COUNTER-MOVEMENTS OF CORNWALLIS AND LAFAYETTE IN VIRGINIA-TARLETON AND HIS TROOPERS SCOUR THE COUNTRY-A DASH AT THE STATE LEGISLATURE-ATTEMPT TO SURPRISE THE GOVERNOR AT MONTICELLO-RETREAT OF JEFFERSON TO CARTER'S MOUNTAIN-STEUBEN OUTWITTED BY SIMCOE-LAFAYETTE JOINED BY WAYNE AND STEUBENACTS ON THE AGGRESSIVE-DESPERATE MELEE OF MACPHERSON AND SIMCOE-CORNWALLIS PURSUED TO JAMESTOWN ISLAND-MAD ANTHONY IN A MORASS-HIS IMPETUOUS VALOR-ALERTNESS OF LAFAYETTE-WASHINGTON'S OPINION OF THE VIRGINIA CAMPAIGN.
THE first object of Lord Cornwallis on the junction of his forces at Petersburg in May, was to strike a blow at Lafayette. The marquis was encamped on the north side of James River, between Wilton and Richmond, with about one thousand regulars, two thousand militia, and fifty dragoons. He was waiting for reinforcements of militia, and for the arrival of General Wayne, with the Pennsylvania line. The latter had been ordered to the South by Washington, nearly three months previously; but unavoidably delayed. Joined by these, Lafayette would venture to receive a blow, "that being beaten, he might at least be beaten with decency, and Cornwallis pay something for his victory."*
His lordship hoped to draw him into an action before thus reinforced, and with that view, marched, on the 24th of May, * Letter to Hamilton, May 23d.
MOVEMENTS OF CORNWALLIS.
from Petersburg to James River, which he crossed at Westover, about thirty miles below Richmond. Here he was joined on the 26th by a reinforcement just arrived from New York, part of which he sent under General Leslie to strengthen the garrison at Portsmouth. He was relieved also from military companionship with the infamous Arnold, who obtained leave of absence to return to New York, where business of importance was said to demand his attention. While he was in command of the British army in Virginia, Lafayette had refused to hold any correspondence, or reciprocate any of the civilities of war with him; for which he was highly applauded by Washington.
Being now strongly reinforced, Cornwallis moved to dislodge Lafayette from Richmond. The latter, conscious of the inferiority of his forces, decampel as soon as he heard his lordship had crossed James River. "I am resolved," said he, " on a war of skirmishes, without engaging too far, and above all, to be on my guard against that numerous and excellent cavalry, which the militia dread, as if they were so many savage beasts." He now directed his march toward the upper country, inclining to the north, to favor a junction with Wayne. Cornwallis followed him as far as the upper part of Hanover County, destroying public stores wherever found. He appears to have undervalued Lafayette, on account of his youth. "The boy cannot escape me," said he in a letter which was intercepted. The youth of the marquis, however, aided the celerity of his movements; and now that he had the responsibility of an independent command, he restrained his youthful fire, and love of enterprise. Indepen-, dence had rendered him cautious. "I am afraid of myself," said he, as much as of the enemy."
* Letter to Col. Alex. Hamilton, May 23, 1780.