Page images

Jerseys, with orders to collect all the force that could be assembled, in order to obstruct the march of the enemy. After various movements on both sides, Sir Henry Clinton, with the royal army, arrived at a place called Freehold, on the twenty-seventh of June, where expecting the enemy would attack him, he chose a strong situation. General Washington, as was expected, meditated an attack as soon as the army began to march. The night was spent in making the necessary preparations, and general Lee was ordered with his division to be ready at day break. Sir Henry Clinton, justiy apprehending that the chief object of the enemy was the baggage, committed it to the care of general Knyphausen, whom he ordered o set out early in the morning, while he followed with the rest of the army. The attack was made, but the British general nad taken such care to arrange his troops, and so effectually supported his forces when engaged with the Americans, that they not oniy made no impression, but were with difficulty prer served from a total defeat, by general Washington, who advanced with the whole of the American army.

The British troops retreated in the night, with the loss of three hundred men, of whom many died through fatigue (the weather being extremely hot.) not a wound being seen upon them. In this action, general Lee was charged by general Washington with disobedience and misconduct, in retreating before the British army. He was tried by a court martial, and sentenced to a suspension from his command for one year. When the British army dad arrived at Sandy Hook, a bridge of boats was by lord Howe's directions, thrown from thence over the channel which separated the island from the main land, and the troops were conveyed on board the fleet; after which they sailed to New York. General Washington then moved towards the North River where a great force had been collected to join him, and where it was now expected that operations of great magnitude would take place.

France in the mean time, was preparing to assist the Americans. On the fourteenth of April, 1778, court D'Estaing had sailed from Toulon, with a strong squadron of ships of the line, and frigates ; he arrived on the coast of Virginia, in the beginning of July, whilst the British leet was employed in conveying the forces from Sandyhook to New-York. The French fleet consisted of one ship of 120 guns, one of eighty, six of 74, and four of 64, besides several large frigates ; and exclusive of its complement of sailors, it had six thousand marines and soldiers on board. To oppose this, the British had only six ships of 64 guns, three of 50, and two of 40, with some frigates and sloops. Notwithstanding this inferiority, the British admiral had posted himself so advantageously, and displayed such superior skill, that D'Estaing did not think it adviseable to attack him : he was also informed by the pilots, that his large vessels could not go over the bar into the hook. In the mean time, general Washington pressed him to sail to Newport. He, therefore, remained at anchor four miles off Sandy hook, till the twenty-second of July, without effecting any thing more than the capture of some vessels; which, through ignorance of his arrival, fell into his hands.

The next attempt of the French admiral, in conjunction with the Americans, was against Rhode Island. It was proposed that D'Estaing, with the six thousand troops he had with him, should make a descent on the southern part of the island, while the Americans took possession of the North ; at the same time, the French squadron was to enter the harbour of Newport, and take, and destroy all the British shipping there. On the eighth of August, the French admiral entered the harbour, as was proposed, but was unable to do any material damage. Lord Howe, how. ever, instantly set sail for Rhode Island, and D'Estaing confiding in his superiority, immediately came out of the harbour to attack him. A violent storm parted the two fleets, and did so much damage, that they were rendered 'totally unfit for action. The French suffered the most, and several of their ships being afterwards attacked by the English, very narrowly escaped being taken. On the twentieth of August, the French admiral returned to New. port in a shattered condition ; but not thinking himself safe there, sailed two days after for Boston.

In the mean time, general Sullivan had landed on the northern part of the island, with ten thousand men. On the seventeenth of August, they began their operations, by erecting batteries, and making their approaches to the British lines. General Pigot, however, had so secured himself on the land side, that the Americans could not attack him with any probability of success, without the as. sistance of a marine force. D’Estaing's conduct in, abandoning them when he was master of the harbour, gave great disgust to the Americans, and Sullivan began to prepare for a retreat. On perceiving his intentions, the garrison sallied out upon him, with such vigour, that it was with great difficulty he effected it. He had not been long gone, when Sir Henry Clinton arrived with a reinforcement of four thousand men. The Americans, thus having left the island, the British undertook an expedition to Buzzard's bay, on the coast of New England, and in the neighbourhood of Rhode Island; where they destroyed a great number of privateers, and merchantmen, magazines, and store-houses, &c. They proceeded next to Martha's Vineyard, from whence they carried off ten thousand sheep and three hundred black cattle.

Another expedition under the command of lord Cornwallis and general Knyphauzen, went up the North River ; the principal object of which was the destruction of a regiment of cavalry, called Washington's light-horse.

A third expedition was directed to Little Egg Harbour in New Jersey, a place noted for privateers ; it was conducted by captains Ferguson and Collins, who compleatly destroyed the enemy's vessels. At the same time, a body of American troops, called Pulaski's legion, were surprized, and a great number cut off.

The conquest of West Florida in the beginning of the year, was projected by some Americans under the command of captain Willing, who had made a successful excursion into the country. This rouzed the attention of the British to the southern colonies, and an expedition against them was resolved on. Georgia was the place of destination, and the more effectuaily to ensure success, colonel Campbell, with a sufficient force, under convoy of some ships of war, commanded by commodore Parker, embark. ed at New York, while general Prevost, who cominanded in East Florida, was directed to set out with all the force he could spare. · The armament arrived off the coast of Georgia in the month of December, 1778, and though the Americans were very strongly posted, in a very advantageous situaVOL. II.


tion on the shore, the British troops made good their landing, and advanced towards Savannah, the capital of the province. The same day they defeated the American forces which opposed them, and entered the town of Sa'vannah with such celerity, that the enemy had not time to burn the town, as they had intended. In ten days the whole province was subdued except Sunbury; and this was also obliged to submit to general Prevost in his march southward.

To secure the tranquillity of the province, was now the main object of the British. Rewards were offered for ap. prehending committee, and assenıbly men, and such as had taken a decided part against the British government. On the arrival of general Prevost, the command of the troops cievolved on him, as the senior officer; and the conquest of Carolina was next projected. In this attempt they were encouraged by many of the loyal inhabitants who had joinesi them; and there was not in the province any considerable body of the enemy capable to oppose regular and well disciplined troops.

On the first news of general Prevost's approach, the loyalists assembled in a borly, imagining themselves able to maintain their station until their allies should arrive ; but they were disappointed. The Americans attacked and defeated them with the loss of half their number. The remainder retreated into Georgia, and with difficulty effected a junction with the British forces. General Lincoln, in the mean time, encamped within twenty miles of the town of Savannah, and another strong party of the provincials posted themselves at Briar Creek, which cir. cumscribed the British government within very narrow bounds.

General Prevost therefore determined to dislodge the enemy at Briar Creek ; and the provincials, trusting to their strong situation, were remiss in their guard, by which Theyeti, they were une «pectedly surprized on the thirueth of March, 1779, and totally routed, with the loss of three hundred killed and taken prisoners, besides a great number drowned in the river : all the artillery stores, baggage, and almost all the arms of this party were taken, so that they were incapable of making any further opposition to the Bri. tish in that quarter.

Thus the province of Georgia was once more under the controul of the British, and a communication was opened with Carolina. The victory at Briar Creek paved the way for the loyalists to join the British army, who considerably encreased its force. General Prevost was now enabled to extend his posts further up the river and to guard all the principal passes : so that general Lincoln was reduced to a state of inaction : and at last moved off to Augusta, that he might protect the assembly, which sat at that place; the capital being now in possession of the British.

The British general now began to put in execution the grand scheme which had been meditated against Carolina. Notwithstanding many difficulties lay in the way, the constancy and perseverance of the British forces prevailed. General Moultrie, who was stationed with a body of troops to oppose their passage, was obiiged to give way, and retreat towards Charleston ; and the British army, after en countering many difficulties through a marshy country, at length arrived in an open champaign, through which they passed with great rapidity, towards the capital; while general Lincoln marched to its relief.

The danger to wlich Charleston was exposed, animated the American general. A chojen body of American in* fantry was mounted on horses, for the greater expedition, and were dispatched before him ; while he himself followed with all the forces he could collect. General Moultrie too with the troops he had brought from Savannah, and some others he had collected since his retreat from thence, had taken possession of all the avenues leading to Charleston, and prepared for a vigorous defence. But all opposition was vain and ineffectual, the British army approached within cannon shot of Charleston on the twelfih of May, 1779.

The tolyn was now summoned to surrender, and the inhabitants would gladly have agreed to observe a neutrality during the rest of the war, and would also have enraged for the province. But these terms not being accepted, they prepared for a vigorous defence, It was not in the power of the British commander, bowever, to succeed at this time in an attack; his artillery was not of sufficient weight, he had no ships to support lim, and he

« PreviousContinue »