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dience to this advice, General Ashe crossed with his troops, and on the 28th they were encamped in two divisions under Generals Brian and Elbert, near to the lower bridge on Briar creek. The bridge had been destroyed by Campbell on his march, but even for three days after the arrival of the Americans, no attempt had been made to repair it. The British commander no sooner heard of this movement of Ashe, than he determined upon measures to dislodge him; and in order the better to conceal his real design, and divert the attention of General Lincoln, be made a a feint of crossing the river between Ebenezer and Savannah, while Lieutenant Colonel Prevost, who was posted at Hudson's ferry, 13 miles below Briar creek, having made a division of his forces and sent one as if to attack the front of Ashe, made a circuitous march of fifty miles with the other, amounting to about 900 men, with two pieces of artillery, and came in upon Ashe's rear. General Ashe proved wholly incompetent to the charge entrusted to him; he was. completely surprised in the weakest part of his camp, and when the enemy appeared on the 3d of March, instead of turning out at the head of his whole force to meet them, he ordered Elbert to sustain the shock with his continentals, amounting to no more than 100 rank and file. This brave officer did not hesitate even with this small number to meet the British light infantry, with whom he engaged for fifteen minutes, while Ashe and his militia stood idly looking on in the rear, without attempting to move to his assistance, until Elbert's men were compelled to give way, when the whole body of them fled in dismay. Thus deserted, , Elbert used every exertion to bring his little band a second time to the charge, but by this time they were
completely surrounded, and further resistance was vain. He and the few who survived were taken pri.
A number of the militia who fled were kill. ed and others overtaken, to the number of more than 300 in the whole. Many of them were drowned in attempting to cross the river, and many others return. ed to their homes so panick struck, that they never ventured again into the field. Colonel Prevost deservedly gained great credit for the skill and dexterity with which he had managed this enterprise; but he has to thank the negligence and incompetence of the American General for his success. Had Elbert been in the place of Ashe, the result of the day might have been widely different.
Thus were the British secured for the present in their possession of Georgia. The loss of seven pieces of cannon, nearly all their arms and ammunition, and the flight of solarge a portion of Ashe's troops, had so much reduced the force and means of General Lincoln, that he was unable for some time to undertake any hostile movement. The election of John Rutledge Esq. about this time to the government of South Carolina, gave an excitement to the republican interest, which soon resulted in important advantages. He was a gentleman of elegant manners, of extensive acquirements, an accomplished orator, and above all he had taken an active part in the earliest measures of independence. He was clothed by the Legislature with extensive powers, and he soon began to exert them for the good of the cause. The militia flocked from all quarters to the American standard, and by the 19th April General Lincoln found himself at the head of 5000 men, With these he determined once more to cross the Savannah, and take such a position as
would intercept the supplies of the enemy from the back parts of Georgia, while at the same time it would enable bim to protect the Republican Legislature, then about to convene at Augusta. Leaving one thousand men under General Moultrie, at the Black Swamp and Perrysburg, he commenced his march for Augusta on the 23d of April.
General Prevost almost immediately determined to take advantage of this movement of Lincoln, and penetrate into South Carolina. With this view, having collected a force of more than 3000 men, he crossed the river in several places, and nioved towards the posts occupied by Moultrie. They traversed swamps that had been deemed by the Americans impassable, and appeared so unexpectedly, that Moultrie's militia made but a feeble resistance and retreated towards Charleston. Emboldened by this success, the British General, with the advice and concurrence of his officers, determined to push his advantages as far as the capital of South Carolina. He moved on, therefore, in pursuit of Moultrie's militia, a part of which had been left under Colonel Laurens at Coosawhatchie bridge, while Moultrie himself took post at Tullifinny bridge. Laurens defended the pass with great spirit for some time, but being himself wounded, and his troops having suffered considerably, he was at length obliged to join General Moultrie. Captain Shubrick, his second in command, conducted the retreat of Laurens's corps with great order and caution.
General Moultrie's force in the mean time suffered daily diminution by the desertion of his militia, who could on no consideration be induced to pass their homes without stopping to take care of their private affairs. General Lincoln received intelligence of the
movements of the enemy, but judging that his object (which in reality it had been at first,) was a mere feint to draw him back from the capital of Georgia, contented himself with sending Colonel Harris with about 300 continentals to the relief of Moultrie, and continued his march for three days longer. Being at length, however, convinced that the British General intended a serious operation against Charleston, Lincoln turned to the right about and recrossed the river.
Colonel Harris, with his 300 continentals, having for four successive days marched near fifty miles a day, reached Charleston as soon as Moultrie, and fortunately before the British army had crossed Ashley river. This dilatory movement of Prevost saved the city; for if he had continued his march with the same rapidity, after he had determined to convert his feint into a real operation, as he had moved at first, he must have arrived at Charleston before any part of the American forces could have entered it, and the town must have fallen. Pulaski's light legion had been sent on by General Lincoln, as soon as he himself had taken the retrogade motion, and these with a part of Moultrie's militia, made repeated stands on the retreat, and a few slight skirmishes ensued, which only served the more strongly to convince Prevost of the facility with which he could accomplish his object.
During the movements of the two armies, Governour Rutledge had established himself with the reserve militia at Orangeburg, considerably on Prevost's left, and though in a situation from which he could conveniently detach his troops to any post at which they might be wanted, he was too far off to have afforded any aid to General Moultrie, but for the delay two days which Prevost made on his march. This suffic
ed for him to gain Charleston in time, and he entered with his militia on the 10th May, the day after General Moultrie and Colonel Harris had taken their stations in the town. On the 11th Pulaski arrived with his legion; and on the same day, 900 of Prevost's army crossed the ferry of Ashley river, and moved towards the town. Pulaski had scarcely taken his post within the town, when the enemy appeared, and with a view to lead them into an ambuscade, he marched out with a single company and stationed them behind a small breast work in a valley; leaving these with orders to remain concealed, he advanced a mile beyond them, and placing himself at the head of a small party of horse, attacked the British cavalry. His object was after a slight skirmish to draw the cavalry after him into the reach of his concealed infantry; but the latter with an ardour which could not be restrained, had in the mean time marched out from behind their breast work to join the attack; the consequence was that, being very inferiour in numbers to the British, they were compelled to retreat. Pulaski, one of the bravest officers that ever drew a sword, entered several times during the day into single combat with individuals of the enemy. His intrepidity was not lost upon the soldiers or officers: it served to excite them to noble emulation; and in several skirnishes which occurred during the day and succeeding night, they showed a courage and coolness which did honour to their brave exemplar. In the course of one of the night skirmishes, Major Huger, an officer greatlyesteemed by his countrymen, was unfortunately killed.
Those within the town had, in the mean time, dili. gently employed every moment of Prevost's extraor.