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1781.] THE ARMIES AT PHILADELPHIA.
dust "like a smothering snow storm," which almost blinded them. The begriming effect was especially mortifying to the campaigner whom we quote, "as ladies were viewing them from the windows of every house as they passed." Notwithstanding the dusty and somewhat ragged plight of the soldiery, however, they were cheered with enthusiasm by the populace, who hailed them as the war-worn defenders of the country.
The French troops entered on the following day, but in different style. Halting within a mile of the city they arranged their arms and accoutrements; brushed the dust off of their gay white uniforms faced with green, and then marched in with buoyant step and brilliant array to the swelling music of a military band. The streets were again thronged by the shouting populace. The windows were crowded with ladies; among whom probably were some of the beauties who had crowned the British knights in the chivalrous mime of the Mischianza, now ready to bestow smiles and wreaths on their Gallic rivals.
At Philadelphia Washington received despatches from Lafayette, dated the 21st and 24th of August from his camp at the Forks of York River in Virginia. The embarkation at Portsmouth, which the Marquis had supposed might be intended for New York, was merely for Yorktown, where Cornwallis had determined to establish the permanent post ordered in his instructions.
Yorktown was a small place situated on a projecting bank on the south side of York River, opposite a promontory called Gloucester Point. The river
between was not more than a mile wide, but deep enough to admit ships of a large size and burthen. Here concentrating his forces he had proceeded to fortify the opposite points, calculating to have the works finished by the beginning of October; at which time Sir Henry Clinton intended to recommence operations on the Chesapeake. Believing that he had no present enemy but Lafayette to guard against, Cornwallis felt so secure in his position that he wrote to Sir Henry on the 22d of August, offering to detach a thousand or twelve hundred men to strengthen New York against the apprehended attack of the combined armies.
While Cornwallis, undervaluing his youthful adversary, felt thus secure, Lafayette, in conformity to the instructions of Washington, was taking measures to cut off any retreat by land which his lordship might attempt on the arrival of De Grasse. With this view he called upon General Thomas Nelson, the governor of Virginia, for six hundred of the militia to be collected upon Blackwater; detached troops to the south of James River, under pretext of a design to dislodge the British from Portsmouth, and requested General Wayne to move southward, to be ready to cross James River at Westover.
As to himself, Lafayette was prepared, as soon as he should hear of the arrival of De Grasse to march at once to Williamsburg and form a junction with the troops which were to be landed from the fleet. Thus a net was quietly drawn round Cornwallis by the youthful general, while the veteran felt himself so
1781.] WASHINGTON'S CONCERN ABOUT DE GRASSE. 345
secure that he was talking of detaching troops to New York.
Lafayette, at the time of writing his dispatches, was ignorant that Washington had taken command of the expedition coming to his aid, and expressed an affectionate solicitude on the subject. "In the present state of affairs, my dear General," writes he, "I hope you will come yourself to Virginia, and that, if the French army moves this way, I will have at least the satisfaction of beholding you, myself, at the head of the combined armies." In concluding his letter, he writes, "Adieu, my dear General. I heartily thank you for having ordered me to remain in Virginia; and to your goodness to me I am owing the most beautiful prospect I may ever behold."
The letter of Lafayette gave no account of the Count de Grasse, and Washington expressed himself distressed beyond measure to know what had become of that commander. He had heard of an English fleet at sea steering for the Chesapeake, and feared it might arrive and frustrate all the flattering prospects in that quarter. Still, as usual, he looked to the bright side. "Of many contingencies," writes he, we will hope for the most propitious events. Should the retreat of Lord Cornwallis by water be cut off by the arrival of either of the French fleets, I am persuaded you will do all in your power to prevent his escape by land. May that great felicity be reserved
Washington left Philadelphia on the 5th of September, on his way to the head of Elk. About three miles below Chester he was met by an express bearing
tidings of the arrival of the Count de Grasse in the Chesapeake with twenty-eight ships of the line. Washington instantly rode back to Chester to rejoice with the Count de Rochambeau, who was coming down to that place from Philadelphia by water. They had a joyous dinner together, after which Washington proceeded in the evening on his destination.
The express meantime reached Philadelphia most opportunely. There had been a grand review of the French troops, at which the President of Congress and all the fashion of the city were present. It was followed by a banquet given to the officers by the French minister, the Chevalier de Luzerne. Scarce were the company seated at table when dispatches came announcing the arrival of De Grasse and the landing of three thousand troops under the Marquis St. Simon, who, it was added, had opened a communication with Lafayette.
All now was mutual gratulation at the banquet. The news soon went forth and spread throughout the city. Acclamations were to be heard on all sides, and crowds assembling before the house of the French Minister rent the air with hearty huzzas for Louis the Sixteenth.
Washington reached the Head of Elk on the 6th. The troops and a great part of the stores were already arrived and beginning to embark. Thence he wrote to the Count de Grasse felicitating him on his arrival; and informing him that the van of the two armies were about to embark and fall down the Chesapeake, form a junction with the troops under the Count de St. Simon and the Marquis de Lafayette, and co-operate
MOUNT VERNON REVISITED.
in blocking up Cornwallis in York River, so as to prevent his retreat by land or his getting any supplies from the country. As it will be of the greatest importance," writes he, "to prevent the escape of his lordship from his present position, I am persuaded that every measure which prudence can dictate will be adopted for that purpose, until the arrival of our complete force, when I hope his lordship will be compelled to yield his ground to the superior power of our combined forces."
Every thing had thus far gone on well, but there were not vessels enough at the Head of Elk for the immediate transportation of all the troops, ordnance and stores; a part of the troops would have to proceed to Baltimore by land. Leaving General Heath to bring on the American forces, and the Baron de Viomenil the French, Washington, accompanied by De Rochambeau, crossed the Susquehanna early on the 8th, and pushed forward for Baltimore. He was met by a deputation of the citizens, who made him a public address, to which he replied, and his arrival was celebrated in the evening with illuminations.
On the 9th he left Baltimore a little after daybreak, accompanied only by Colonel Humphreys; the rest of his suite were to follow at their ease; for himself he was determined to reach Mount Vernon that evening. Six years had elapsed since last he was under its roof; six wearing years of toil, of danger and constant anxiety. During all that time, and amid all his military cares, he had kept up a regular weekly correspondence with his steward or agent, regulating all the