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CORNWALLIS PURSUES MORGAN.
Cornwallis, on the eventful day of the 17th, was at his camp on Turkey Creek, confidently waiting for tidings from Tarleton of a new triumph, when, towards evening, some of his routed dragoons came straggling into camp, haggard and forlorn, to tell the tale of his defeat. It was a thunder-stroke. Tarleton defeated! and by the rude soldier he had been so sure of entrapping! It seemed incredible. It was confirmed, however, the next morning by the arrival of Tarleton himself, discomfited and crest-fallen. In his account of the recent battle, he represented the force under Morgan to be two thousand. This exaggerated estimate, together with the idea that the militia would now be out in great force, rendered his lordship cautious. Supposing that Morgan, elated by his victory, would linger near the scene of his triumph, or advance toward Ninety-six, Cornwallis remained a day or two at Turkey Creek to collect the scattered remains of Tarleton's forces and to await the arrival of General Leslie, whose march had been much retarded by the waters, but who "was at last out of the
On the 19th, having been rejoined by Leslie, his lordship moved towards King's Creek, and thence in the direction of King's Mountain, until informed of Morgan's retreat toward the Catawba. Cornwallis now altered his course in that direction, and, trusting that Morgan, encumbered as he supposed him to be, by prisoners and spoils, might be overtaken before he could cross that river, detached a part of his force, without baggage, in pursuit of him, while he followed on with the remainder.
Nothing, say the British chroniclers, could exceed the exertions of the detachment; but Morgan succeeded in reaching the Catawba and crossing it in the evening just two hours before those in pursuit of him arrived on its banks. A heavy rain came on and fell all night, and by daybreak the river was so swollen as to be impassable.*
This sudden swelling of the river was considered by the Americans as something providential. It continued for several days, and gave Morgan time to send off his prisoners who had crossed several miles above, and to call out the militia of Mecklenburg and Rowan Counties to guard the fords of the river.†
Lord Cornwallis had moved slowly with his main body. He was encumbered by an immense train of baggage; the roads were through deep red clay and the country was cut up by streams and morasses. was not until the 25th, that he asembled his whole force at Ramsour's Mills, on the Little Catawba, as the south fork of that river is called, and learnt that Morgan had crossed the main stream. Now he felt the loss he had sustained in the late defeat of Tarleton, of a great part of his light troops, which are the life and spirit of an army, and especially efficient in a thinly peopled country, of swamps and streams, and forests, like that he was entangled in.
* Stedman, ii. 326. Cornwallis to Sir H. Clinton; see also Remembrancer, 1781, part 1. 303.
This sudden swelling of the river has been stated by some writers as having taken place on the 29th, on the approach of Cornwallis's main force, whereas it took place on the 23d, on the approach of the detachment sent by his lordship in advance in pursuit of Morgan. The inaccuracy as to date has given rise to disputes among historians.
1781.] CORNWALLIS DESTROYS HIS BAGGAGE.
In this crippled condition, he determined to relieve his army of every thing that could impede rapid movement in his future operations. Two days, therefore, were spent by him at Ramsour's Mills, in destroying all such baggage and stores as could possibly be spared. He began with his own. His officers followed his example. Superfluities of all kinds were sacrificed without flinching. Casks of wine and spirituous liquors were staved; quantities even of provisions were sacrificed. No waggons were spared but those laden with hospital stores, salt and ammunition, and four empty ones, for the sick and wounded. The alacrity with which these sacrifices of comforts, conveniences, and even necessaries, were made, was honorable to both officers and men." *
The whole expedient was subsequently sneered at by Sir Henry Clinton, as being " something too like a Tartar move ; "but his lordship was preparing for a trial of speed, where it was important to carry as light weight as possible.
*Annual Register, 1781, p. 58.
GREENE JOINS MORGAN ON THE CATAWBA-ADOPTS THE FABIAN POLICY-MOVEMENT OF CORNWALLIS TO CROSS THE CATAWBA-AFFAIR
AT MCGOWAN'S FORD-MILITIA SURPRISED BY TARLETON AT TARRANT'S TAVERN-CORNWALLIS CHECKED BY THE RISING OF THE YADKIN-CONTEST OF SKILL AND SPEED OF THE TWO ARMIES IN A MARCH TO THE BANKS OF THE DAN.
GENERAL GREENE was gladdened by a letter from Morgan, written shortly after his defeat of Tarleton, and transmitted the news to Washington with his own generous comments. "The victory was complete," writes he, "and the action glorious. The brilliancy and success with which it was fought, does the highest honor to the American arms, and adds splendor to the character of the general and his officers. I must beg leave to recommend them to your excellency's notice, and doubt not but from your representation, Congress will receive pleasure from testifying their approbation of their conduct."
Another letter from Morgan, written on the 25th, spoke of the approach of Cornwallis and his forces. My numbers," writes he, "are at this time too weak to fight them. I intend to move towards Salisbury, to get near the main army. I think it would be advisa
1781.] GREENE HASTENS TO MORGAN'S CAMP. 247
ble to join our forces, and fight them before they join Phillips, which they certainly will do if they are not stopped."
Greene had recently received intelligence of the landing of troops at Wilmington, from a British squadron, supposed to be a force under Arnold, destined to push up Cape Fear River, and co-operate with Cornwallis ; he had to prepare, therefore, not only to succor Morgan, but to prevent this co-operation. He accordingly detached General Stevens with his Virginian militia (whose term of service was nearly expired) to take charge of Morgan's prisoners, and conduct them to Charlottesville in Virginia. At the same time he wrote to the Governors of North Carolina and Virginia, for all the aid they could furnish; to Steuben, to hasten forward his recruits, and to Shelby, Campbell and others, to take arms once more, and rival their achievements at King's Moun tain.
This done, he left General Huger in command of the division on the Pedee, with orders to hasten on by forced marches to Salisbury, to join the other division; in the mean time he set off on horseback for Morgan's camp, attended merely by a guide, an aide-de-camp, and a sergeant's guard of dragoons. His object was to aid Morgan in assembling militia and checking the enemy until the junction of his forces could be effected. It was a hard ride of upwards of a hundred miles through a rough country. On the last day of January he reached Morgan's camp at Sherrard's ford on the east side of the Catawba. The British army lay on the opposite side of the river, but a few miles distant from it, and appeared to be making preparations to force a