Page images
PDF
EPUB

thousand British troops under his command, to surprize the advanced posts of general Washington's army. They proceeded with great expedition, towards Springfield, meet ing little opposition, till they came to the bridge, which was gallantly defended by one hundred and seventy of the continental troops, for fifteen minutes, against the British army : but were at length obliged to give up so unequal a contest, with the loss of thirty-seven men. After securing this pass, the British marched from place to place, and commitied some depredations, but gained no laurels, and were obliged to return without effecting any thing material.

The royal arms were attended with more success in South Carolina. Earl Cornwallis, who now commanded the troops in that quarter, obtained a signal victory over general Gates on the sixteenth of August. The action began at day break : the Americans were much more numerous than the British, but numbers were of no advantage, as the ground, on which both armies stood, was närlowed by swamps on the right and left.

The attack was made by the British troops with great vigour, and in a few minutes it became general along the whole line. It was at this time a dead calm, the air was hazy, so that the smoke occasioned so thick a darkness, that it was impossible for either party to see the effects of a very heavy fire, and well supported on both sides. The British troops kept up a constant fire, or made use of baronets as opportunities offered ;' and after an obstinate resistance of three quarters of an hour, the Americans were thrown into confusion, and forced to give way in every quarter. The continental troops behaved well; but the militia were soon broken, and left the former to oppose the whole force of the British troops. General Gates did all in his power to rally thein, but without effect : the regular troops under general Gates retreated in good order; but the route of the militia was so great, that the British cavalry pursued them to the distance of twenty-two miles from the place where the action happened. The Americans lost one thousand in killed and wounded, and a like num. ber, it is said, taken prisoners ; but the accounts are not very accurate.

The British troops engaged in this action did not exceed two thousand men, while the American army is said to have amounted to six thousand, of which the greater part was militia. Seven pieces of brass cannon, a number of colours, and all the ammunition-waggons, were taken. The killed and wounded of the British troops amounted to two lurdred and thirteen. Major-general Baron de Kalb, a Prussi. an officer in the American service, was taken prisoner, afa ter he had been mortally wounded ; he had distinguished bimself in the course of the engagement by his gallantry, and received eleven wounds. .

Lieutenant-colonel Tarleton, who had greatly distirguished himseif in this action, was detached the next day, with some cavalry and light infantry, to attack a party of Americans under the command of general Sumpter; he exe. cuted this service with great military address. He had received certain intelligence of Sumpter's movements ; and by forced and concealed marches, came up with, and surprized him, in the middle of the day, on the cighteenth of the month, near the Catawba fords : the detacliment under Sumpter was totally dispersed, amounting to seven hundred men; one liundred and fifty were killed on the spot, and three hundred made prisoners; two pieces of brass cannon, and forty-four waggons, were likewise taken. .

While the French fleet and army were blockaded at Rhode Island, by admirals Graves and Arbuthnot, with a fleet of ten sail of the line, and the Americans were brooding over their disappointments; the campaign of 1780 having passed away in the northern states in successive anul reiterated distresses; the country exhausted, and the continental currency expiring; the army inactive for want of subsistence : while these disasters were openly menacing the ruin of the American cause, treachery was secretly undermining it.

General Arnold, a distinguished officer, a native of Connecticut, who had been among the foremost to take up arms against Great Britain, and widen the breach between the parent state and the colonies : his distinguished military talents bad procured him every honour, a grateful country could bestow : he possessed, and was in the full enjoyment of substantial fame : liis country had not only loaded him with honours, but forgiven his criines ; lie, who had been prodigal of life in his country's cause, was indulged in extraordinary demands for his services. But the generosity of the states did not keep pace with the extravagance of their favourite officer. His love of pleasure produced the love of money : to attain which he sacrificed his honour and duty. He made contracts, and entered into partnerships and speculations, which could not bear investigation. Thus embarrassed, a change of political sides afforded the only probable hope of evading a scrutiny, and bettering his circumstances, and gratifying his favourite passions.

The American army was stationed in the strong holds of the ligh Lands, on both sides of the North River; Arnold was entrusted by general \Vashington, with the command of West Point, a strong fortified post. This was called the Gibraltar of America, and was buiit for the defence of the North River. Rocky riges rising one behind another ren. ciered it so secure, that it could not be invested by a less number than twenty thousand men.... Arnold being entrust. ed with the command, carried on a negociation with gencral Clinton, by which it was agreed, that Arnold should so arrange matters, that Clinton should be enabled to surprize West Point, and have the garrison so completely in his power, that the troops must either lay down tlicir arms, or be cut to pieces.

The loss of this sort would have been severely felt, is it was the repository of their niost valuable stores. Sir Henry Clinton's agent in this negociation was Major Andre, adjutant-general of the British army,, a young officer of uncommon merit ; nature had bestowed on him her choicest gifts ; 'he possessed many amiable and rare qualities ; his fidelity, his place, and character fitted him for this important business, but his high idea of candour, his abhorrence of duplicity, and nice sense of honor, made him reject those arts of deception which was necessary to accomplish its success. To favour the necessary communication, the Vulture sloop of war had been previously stationed in the North River, as near to Arnold's posts as was possible, without exciting suspicion. A written correspondence had been carried on between Arrold and Andre, under the fictitious names of Gustavus and Ander

fon. boat was sent at night to bring Major Ardre to shore ; he was met by Arnold on the beach without the posts of either army. As their business was not finished before the dawn of day, which made it unsafe for Andre to return to the Vulture sloop of war, he was persuaded by Arnold to lie concealed until the next night. He was then conducted within one of the American posts, against lis previous stipulation, and knowledge, and continued with Arnold the following day. The next night tire bout-men refused to take him back, as the Vulture had changed her position. The only practicable mode of escape was by land to New York.

To ensure success he changed his uniform, which le had bitherto worn under a surtout; was furnished with a horse, and a pass under the name of John Anderson, allow'. ing him to go to the White Plains, or lower is he thought proper. He advanced alone, and undisturbed a great part of the way. And when he expected te was nearly out of danger, was stopped by three of the New York militia, who, with others were scouting between the posts of the two armies. Major Andre, instead of producing his pass, asked the man who stopped iim " where he bclonged to ?" who answered 6 to below” meaning New York. lle replied, « so do I," and declared himseif a British oficer, and desired he might not be detained. He soon found Lis mis-' take. The captor's proceeded to search him ; sudiy papers were found in his possession. These were secreted in his boots, and were in Arnold's hand willing. They contained exact returns of the state of the forces, ordnance at West Point, the artillery orders, and critical remarks on the works, &c.

Andre offered his captors a purse of gold, and a new valuable watch, if they would let hiin pass ; alid permanent provision, and future promotion, if they would corvey and accompany him to New York. This was refused, and he was delivered a prisoner to colonel Jameson, who commanded the scoliling puriies. Andre still assumed the name of Jolin Anderson, and asked leave to send a letter to Arnold, to acquaint him with his detention : This was granted, and Arnold immediaicły, upon the receipt of the letter, abandonei every thing, and went on board ide voi bure sloop of var.

Lieutenant-colonel Jameson forwarded, by an express, all the papers found on Andre, together with a letter from that gentleman, avowing his name and rank, in which he endeavoured to shew that he did not come under the description of a spy. The style of the letter was dignified, without insolence. He stated, that he had held a corres. pondence with a person, by order of his general : that his intention went no further, than to meet that person on neutral ground, for the purpose of intelligence; and that against his express stipulation and intention, he was brought within the American posts, and had to concert his escape from them. Being taken on his return, he was betrayed into the vile condition of an enemy in disguise. He concluded with requesting, whatever his fate should prove, a decency of treatment might be observed, which would mark, that though unfortunate, he was branded with nothing that was dishonourable, and that he was involuntarily an impostor.

General Washington referred the case of major Andre to the decision of a board of general officers. On his examination, he candidly confessed every thing relating to himself; and particularly, that he did not come on shore under the sanction of a flag. The board did not examine a single witness, but founded their report on his own confession ; and finally gave it as their opinion, “ that major Andre ought to be considered as a spy ; and that agreeably to the laws and usages of nations, he ought to suffer death."

Every exertion was made by the royal commanders, and every plea that ingenuity and humanity could suggest, to save the life of Andre, but without effect. Greene proposed delivering him up for Arnold ; but this could not be acceded to by the British, consistent with principles of sound policy. Andre, though superior to the terrors of death, wished to die like a soldier. To obtain this favour, he wrote a letter to general Washington, fraught with sentiments of military dignity. General Washington did not think proper to grant this request ; but his delicacy was saved from the pain of a negative denial. The guard which attended him in his confinement, marched with him to the place of execution. Major Andre walked with firmness, composure, and dignity, between two officers of his

« PreviousContinue »