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Carolina were at an end. Sickness, desertion, and the loss sustained at Guilford Court-house, had reduced his little army to fourteen hundred and thirty-five men.

In this sad predicament, after remaining several days in a painful state of irresolution, he determined to take advantage of Greene's having left the back part of Virginia open, to march directly into that province, and attempt a junction with the force acting there under General Phillips.

By this move, he might draw Greene back to the northward, and by the reduction of Virginia, he might promote the subjugation of the South. The move, however, he felt to be perilous. His troops were worn down by upwards of eight hundred miles of marching and counter-marching through an inhospitable and impracticable country ; they had now three hundred more before them ; under still worse circumstances than those in which they first set out; for, so destitute were they, notwithstanding the supplies received at Wilmington, that his lordship, sadly humorous, declared, “his cavalry wanted every thing, and his infantry, every thing but shoes.” *

There was no time for hesitation or delay; Greene might return and render the junction with Phillips impracticable: having sent an express to the latter, therefore, informing him of his coming, and appointing a meeting at Petersburg, his lordship set off on the 25th of April, on his fated march into Virginia.

We must now step back in dates to bring up events in the more northern parts of the Union.


* Annual Register, 1781, p. 90.




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In a former chapter we left Benedict Arnold fortifying himself at Portsmouth, after his ravaging incursion. At the solicitation of Governor Jefferson, backed by Congress, the Chevalier de la Luzerne had requested the French commander at the eastward to send a ship of the line and some frigates to Chesapeake Bay to oppose the traitor. Fortunately at this juncture a severe snow storm (Jan. 22d) scattered Arbuthnot’s blockading squadron, wrecking one ship of the line and dismasting others, and enabled the French fleet at Newport to look abroad; and Rochambeau wrote to Washington that the Chevalier Destouches, who commanded the fleet, proposed to send three or four ships to the Chesapeake.

Washington feared the position of Arnold, and his well-known address might enable him to withstand a mere attack by sea ; anxious to ensure his capture, he advised that Destouches should send his whole fleet; and that De Rochambeau should embark about a thousand men on board of it, with artillery and apparatus for a siege ; engaging, on his own part, to send off immediately a detachment of twelve hundred men to co-operate. The destruction of the corps under the command of Arnold," writes he, “is of such immense importance to the welfare of the Southern States, that I have resolved to attempt it with the detachment I now send in conjunction with the militia, even if it should not be convenient for your Excellency to detach a part of your force; provided M. Destouches is able to protect our operations by such a disposition of his fleet as will give us the command of the bay, and prevent succors from being sent from New York.”

Before the receipt of this letter, the French commanders, acting on their first impulse, had, about the 9th of February, detached M. de Tilly with a sixty gun ship and two frigates to make a dash into the Chesapeake. Washington was apprised of their sailing just as he was preparing to send off the twelve hundred men spoken of in his letter to De Rochambeau. He

gave the command of this detachment to Lafayette, instructing him to act in conjunction with the militia and the ships sent by Destouches, against the enemy's corps actually in Virginia. As the case was urgent, he was to suffer no delay, when on the march, for want either of provisions, forage, or waggons, but where ordinary means did not suffice, he was to resort to military impress.




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" You are to do no act whatever with Arnold,” said the letter of instruction, “that directly or by implication may screen him from the punishment due to his treason and desertion, which, if he should fall into your hands, you will execute in the most summary manner.

Washington wrote at the same time to the Baron Steuben, informing him of the arrangements, and requesting him to be on the alert. “ If the fleet should have arrived before this gets to hand,” said he,

secrecy will be out of the question; if not, you will conceal your expectations and only seem to be preparing for defence. Arnold, on the appearance of the fleet, may endeavor to retreat through North Carolina. If you take any measure to obviate this, the precaution will be advisable. Should you be able to capture this detachment with its chief, it will be an event as pleasing as it will be useful."

Lafayette set out on his march on the 22d of February, and Washington was indulging the hope that, scanty as was the naval force sent to the Chesapeake, the combined enterprise might be successful, when, on the 27th, he received a letter from the Count de Rochambeau announcing its failure. De Tilly had made his dash into Chesapeake Bay, but Arnold had been apprised by the British Admiral Arbuthnot of his approach, and had drawn his ships high up Elizabeth River. The water was too shallow for the largest French ship to get within four leagues of him. One of De Tilly's frigates ran aground, and was got off with difficulty, and that commander, seeing that Arnold was out of his reach, and fearing to be himself blockaded


should he linger, put to sea and returned to Newport; having captured during his cruise a British frigate of forty-four guns, and two privateers with their prizes.

The French commanders now determined to follow the plan suggested by Washington, and operate in the Chesapeake with their whole fleet and a detachment of land troops, being, as they said, disposed to risk every thing to hinder Arnold from establishing himself at Portsmouth.

Washington set out for Newport to concert operations with the French commanders. Before his departure, he wrote to Lafayette, on the 1st of March, giving him intelligence of these intentions, and desiring him to transmit it to the Baron Steuben. “I have received a letter,” adds he," from General Greene, by which it appears that Cornwallis, with twenty-five hundred men, was penetrating the country with very great rapidity, and Greene with a much inferior force retiring before him, having determined to pass the Roanoke. This intelligence, and an apprehension that Arnold may make his escape before the fleet can arrive in the bay, induces me to give you greater latitude than you had in your original instructions. You are at liberty to concert a plan with the French general and naval commander for a descent into North Carolina, to cut off the detachment of the enemy which had ascended Cape Fear River, intercept, if possible, Cornwallis, and relieve General Greene and the Southern States. This, however, ought to be a secondary object, attempted in case of Arnold's retreat to New York; or in case his reduction should be attended with too much delay. There

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