« PreviousContinue »
The British general, now freed from any danger of as attack; was soon enabled toact offensively against the provincials, by the arrival of the forces destined for that purpose from Britain. By these he was put at the head of twelve thousand regular troops; among whom were those of Brunswick. With this force he set out for the Three rivers, where he expected Arnold would have made a stand; but he had retired to Sorel, a place one hundred and fifty miles from Quebec; where he was atHast met by the reinforcements ordered by Congress.
Here, though the preceding events were by no means calculated to inspire much military ardour, a very daring enterprize was undertaken; and this was to surprize the British troops, posted under generals Fraser and Nesbit: pf whom the former commanded those on land; the latter such as were on board the transports, and were but a little way distant. The enterprize was very hazardous, both on account of the strength of the parties, against whom they were to act, and as the main body of the British forces were advanced within fifty miles of the place; besides that a number of armed vessels, and transports with troops, lay between them and the Three Rivers. Two thousand chosen men, however, under general Thomson, engaged in this undertaking. Their success was by no means answerable to their spirit and valour.
Though they passed the shipping without being observed, general Fraser had notice of their landing ; and thus, being prepared to receive them, they were soon thrown into disorder; at the same time that general Nesbit, having landed his forces, prepared to attack them in the rear. On this occasion, some field pieces did prodigious execution i and a retreat was found to be unavoidable. General Nesbit was now between them and their boats; so that they were obliged to take a circuit through a deep swamp while they were hotly pursued by both parties at the same time, who marched for some miles on each side of the swamp, till at last the unfortunate provincials were sheltered from further danger by a wood at the end of the swamp. Their general, however, was taken, with two hundred of his men. By this disaster, the provincials lost all hopes of accomplishing any thing in Canada. They, therefore, demolished
their works, and carried off their artillery, with the utmost expedition. They were pursued by general Burgoyne, against whom it was expected they would have collected all their force, and made a resolute stand. But they were how too much dispirited by misfortune, to make any more exertions of valour. On the eighteenth of June, the British general arrived at Fort St. Johns, which he found abandoned and burnt. CnamMee had shared the same fate; as well as all the vessels that were not capable of being dragged up the river. It was thought they would have made some resistance at Nut-Island, the entrance to lake Champlain: but this also they abandoned; and retreated across the lake to Crown point, whither they could not be immediately followed.
Thus was the province of Canada entirely evacuated by the provincials, whose loss in their retreat from Quebec, was calculated at not less than ohe thousand men, of whom' four hundred in one body, fell into the hands of the enemy at- a place called the Cedars, about fifty miles from Montreal. General Sullivan who conducted this retreat, after the affair of general Thomson, had great merit in what he did, and received the thanks of Congress accordingly.
This bad success in the north was in some measure compensated by what happened in the southern colonies. ....It has been formerly noticed that governor Martin of North Carolina, had been obliged to leave his province, and take refuge on board of a man of war. He notwithstanding did not despair of reducing it again to obedience. He therefore, applied to the regulators, a daring set of banditti, who lived in a kind of independent state; and though considered by government as rebels, yethad never been molested, on account of their known skill in the use of fire arms. To the chiefs of these people commissions were sent, in order to raise some regiments; and a colonel Macdonald was appointed to command them. In the month of February he erected the king's standard, issued proclamations, £cc. and collected some forces; expecting soon to be joined by a body of regular troops, who were known to be shipped from Britain to act against the southern colonies.
The Americans sensible of their danger, dispatched immediately what forces they had to act against the royalists, at the same time they exerted themselves to support these with suitable rehWxements. General Moore's numbers at first were inferior to Macdonald's, which induced the latter to hope that he might intimidate him to join the king's standard; with this intention he summoned him under the pain of being treated as a rebel if he refused. But Moore being well provided with cannon, and conscious that nothing could be attempted against him, returned the compliment, by acquainting Macdonald, that if he and his party would lay down their arms, and subscribe an oath of fidelity to Congress, they should be treated as friends, but if they persisted in an undertaking for which it was evident they had not sufficient strength, they could not but expect the severest treatment.
In a few days general Moore found himself at the head of 8,000 men, by reason of the continual supplies which daily arrived from all parts. The royal party only amounted to 2000, and as they were destitute of artillery, they were prevented from attacking the enemy with success, when they had the advantage of numbers. Nothing now remained but to have recourse to a desperate exertion of their own personal valour; by dint of which they effected a retreat for eighty miles to Moore's Creek, within sixteen miles of Wilmington. Could they have gained this place the,y expected to have been joined by governor Martin, and general Clinton, who had lately arrived with a considerable detachment. But Moore with his army pursued them so close, that they were obliged to attempt the passage of the creek, on the opposite side of which was colonel Caswell with a considerable body of provincials posted to oppose his passage, with fortifications well planted with cannon. On attempting the creek it was found not to be fordable. They were obliged therefore, to cross over a wooden bridge, which the provincials had not time entirely to destroy. They had, however, by pulling up part of the planks, and greasing the remainder, made the passage so difficult that the royalists could not attempt it.
In this situation they were on the 27th of February, 1776, attacked by Moore and his supeiior army and totally defeated, with the loss of their general and most of their leaders, as well as the best and bravest of their maen. Thus was the power of the provincials established ih North Carolina. Nor were they less successful in Virginia, where Lord Dunmore,having long continued i\ predatory war, was at last driven from every creek and road in the province. The people he had on board were distressed to the highest degree, by confinement in small vessels. The heat of the season, and the numbers crowded together, produced a pestilential fever, which made great havock, especially among the blacks. At last finding themselves in the utmost hazard of perishing by famine, as well as disease, they set fire to the least valuable vessels, reserving only about fifty for themselves, in which they bid a final adieu to Virginia, some sailing for Florida, some to Bermuda, and the rest to the West Indies.
In South Carolina the provincials had a more formidable enemy to deal with. A squadron, whose object was the reduction of Charleston had been fitted out in December 1775, but by reason of unfavourable weather did not reach Cape Fear in North Carolina till the month of May 1776: and here it met with further obstacles to the end of the month. Thusthe Americans had time to strengthen the works of Charleston in such a manner as rendered it extremely difficult to be attacked.
The British squadron consisted of two fifty gun ships, four of thirty guns, two of twenty, and an armed schooner and bomb-ketch, all under the command of sir Peter Parker. The land forces were commanded by lord Cornwailis, witn generals Clinton and Vanghan. As they had yet no intelligence of the evacuation of Boston, general Howe dispatched a vessel to Cape Fear with some instructions; but it was too late; and in the beginning of June, the squadron anchored off Charleston bar. Here they met wit'l some difficulty in crossing, being obliged to take out the guns from the t,vo largest ships, which were notwith,* standi'l. :, several times in danger of sticking fast. The next ohst-icle was a strong fort on Sullivan's island, six miles east of Charleston, which, though not compleatiy finished, was very strong. However, the British generals resolved wit .out hesitation to attack it; but though an attack was easy from sea, it was difficult to obtain a co-operation of th-' h.n': fo,ces.
T .is was, however, attempted by landing them on Long island adjacent to Sullivan's island on the east, from whicfi it is separated by a very narrow creek, not above two feet deep at low' wirter. Opposite to this ford, the provincials had posted a strong body of troops, with cannon and inIrenchments; while general Lee was posted on the main land, with a bridge of boats betwixt that and Sullivan's island, so that he could at pleasure, send reinforcements to the troops in the fort on Sullivan's island.
There were so many delays occurred on the part of the British, that it was the 24th of June, 1776, before matters were in readiness for an attack; and, by this time the provincials had abundantly provided for their reception. On the morning of that day, the bomb-ketch began to throw shells into fort Sullivan, and about mid-day the two fifty gun ships, and thirty gun frigates came up and began a severe fire. Three other frigates were ordered to take their station between Charleston, and the fort,in order to enfilade the batteries, and cut off the communication with the main land; but, through the ignorance of the pilots, they all stuck fast; and though two of them were disentangled they were found to be totally unfit for service; the third was burnt, that she might not fall into the hands of the enemy.
The attack was therefore confined to the five armed vessels, and bomb-ketch, between whom and the fort, a dreadful fire ensued. The Bristol suffered excessively, the springs on her cable being shot away, she was for a time, entirely exposed to the enemy's fire. As the provincials poured in great quantities of red hot balls, she was twice in flames. Captain Morris, her commander, after receiving five wounds, was obliged to go below deck in order to have his arm amputated: after undergoing this operation, he returned to his station, where he received another wound, but still refused to quit his place; at last he received a red hot ball in his belly, which instantly put an end to his life. Of all the officers and seamen, who stood on the quarter deck of this vessel, not one escaped without a wound, except sir Peter Parker ^alone; whose intrepidity and presence of mind on this occasion, was very remarkable.
The engagement lasted until the darkness put an end to it. Little damage was done by the British, as the works of the enemy lay so low, that many of the shot flew over: and the fortifications, being composed of paJm trees, mix