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CORNWALLIS CROSSES THE YADKIN.
Cornwallis did not advance so rapidly as had been apprehended. After crossing the Catawba he had to wait for his waggons and artillery, which had remained on the other side in the woods ; so that by nightfall of the 1st of February he was not more than five miles on the road to Salisbury. Eager to come up with the Americans, he mounted some of the infantry upon the baggage horses, joined them to the cavalry, and sent the whole forward under General O'Hara. They arrived on the banks of the Yadkin at night, between the 2d and 3d of February, just in time to capture a few wag- . gons lingering in the rear of the American army, which had passed. The riflemen who guarded them retreated after a short skirmish. There were no boats with which to cross; the Americans had secured them on the other side. The rain which had fallen throughout
. the day had overflooded the ford by which the American cavalry had passed. The pursuers were again brought to a stand. After some doubt and delay, Cornwallis took his course up the south side of the Yadkin, and crossed by what is still called the Shallow ford, while Greene continued on unmolested to Guilford Court-house, where he was joined by General Huger and his division on the 9th.
Cornwallis was now encamped about twenty-five miles above them, at the old Moravian town of Salem. Greene summoned a council of war (almost the only time he was known to do so), and submitted the question whether or not to offer battle. There was an unanimous vote in the negative. A fourth part of the force was on the sick list, from nakedness and exposure. The official returns gave but two thousand and thirtysix, rank and file, fit for duty. Of these upwards of six hundred were militia.
Cornwallis had from twenty-five hundred to three thousand men, including three hundred cavalry, all thoroughly disciplined and well equipped. It was determined to continue the retreat.
The great object of Greene now was to get across the river Dan, and throw himself into Virginia. With the reinforcements and assistance he might there expect to find, he hoped to effect the salvation of the South, and prevent the dismemberment of the Union. The object of Cornwallis was to get between him and Virginia, force him to a combat before he could receive those reinforcements, or enclose him in between the great rivers on the west, the sea on the east, and the two divisions of the British army under himself and Lord Rawdon on the north and south. His lordship had been informed that the lower part of the Dan, at present, could only be crossed in boats, and that the country could not afford a sufficient number for the passage of Greene's army; he trusted, therefore, to cut him off from the upper part of the river where alone it was fordable. Greene, however, had provided against
. such a contingency. Boats had been secured at various places by his agents, and could be collected at a few hours' notice at the lower ferries. Instead, therefore, of striving with his lordship for the upper fords, Greene
, shaped his course for Boyd's and Irwin's fords, just above the confluence of the Dan and Staunton rivers which forms the Roanoke, and about seventy miles from Guilford Court-house. This would give him twentyfive miles advantage of Lord Cornwallis at the outset.
A SEVERE MARCH.
General Kosciuszko was sent with a party in advance to collect the boats and throw up breastworks at the ferries.
In ordering his march, General Greene took the lead with the main body, the baggage, and stores. General Morgan would have had the command of the rear-guard, composed of seven hundred of the most alert and active troops, cavalry and light infantry; but, being disabled by a violent attack of ague and rheumatism, it was given to Colonel Otho H. Williams (formerly Adjutant-general), who had with him Colonels Howard, Washington, and Lee. This corps, detached some distance in the rear, did
, infinite service. Being lightly equipped, it could manoeuvre in front of the British line of march, break down bridges, sweep off provisions, and impede its progress in a variety of ways, while the main body moved forward unmolested. It was now that Cornwallis most felt the severity of the blow he had received at the battle of the Cowpens in the loss of his light troops, having so few to cope with the élite corps under Williams.
Great abilities were shown by the commanders on either side in this momentous trial of activity and skill. It was a long and severe march for both armies, through a wild and rough country, thinly peopled, cut up by streams, partly covered by forests, along deep and frozen roads, under drenching rains, without tents at night, and with scanty supplies of provisions. The British suffered the least, for they were well equipped and comfortably clad ; whereas the poor Americans were badly off for clothing, and many of them without shoes. The patriot armies of the revolution, however, were ac
customed in their winter marches to leave evidences of their hardships in bloody foot-prints.
We forbear to enter into the details of this masterly retreat, the many stratagems and maneuvres of the covering party to delay and hoodwink the enemy. Tarleton himself bears witness in his narrative that every measure of the Americans was judiciously designed and vigorously executed. So much had Cornwallis been misinformed at the outset as to the means below of passing the river, and so difficult was it, from want of light troops, to gain information while on the march, that he pushed on in the firm conviction that he was driving the American army into a trap, and would give it a signal blow before it could cross the Dan.
In the mean time, Greene, with the main body, reached the banks of the river, and succeeded in crossing over with ease in the course of a single day at Boyd's and Irwin's ferries, sending back word to Williams, who with his covering party was far in the rear. That intelligent officer encamped, as usual, in the evening, at a wary distance in front of the enemy, but stole a march upon them after dark, leaving his camp fires burning. He pushed on all night, arrived at the ferry in the morning of the 15th, having marched forty miles within the last four and twenty hours; and made such despatch in crossing, that his last troops had landed on the Virginia shore by the time the astonished
arrived on the opposite bank. Nothing, according to their own avowal, could surpass the grief and vexation of the British at discovering, on their arrival at Boyd's ferry,
that all their toil and exertions had been vain, and that all their hopes were frustrated.”*
* Annual Register, 1781.
GREENE RECROSSES THE DAN-COUNTRY SOOURED BY LEE AND PICKENS -AFFAIR WITH COLONEL PYLE-MANEUVRES OF CORNWALLIS TO BRING GREENE TO ACTION-BATTLE OF GUILFORD COURT-HOUSE-GREENE RETREATS TO TROUBLESOME OREEK-CORNWALLIS MARCIIES TOWARD
CAPE FEAR-GREENE PURSUES IIIM-IS BROUGIIT TO A STAND AT
DEEP RIVER--DETERMINES TO FACE ABOUT AND CARRY THE WAR INTO
SOUTII CAROLINA-CORNWALLIS MAROHES FOR VIRGINIA.
For a day the two armies lay panting within sight of each other on the opposite banks of the river, which had put an end to the race. In a letter to Thomas Jefferson, dated the day of the crossing, Greene writes : “On the Dan river, almost fatigued to death, having had a retreat to conduct of upwards of two hundred miles, manæuvring constantly in the face of the enemy to give time for the militia to turn out and get off our
And to Washington he writes (Feb. 15), “Lord Cornwallis has been at our heels from day to day ever since we left Guilford, and our movements from thence to this place have been of the most critical kind, having a river in our front and the enemy in our
The miserable condition of the troops for clothing has rendered the march the most painful imagina