« PreviousContinue »
in North Carolina. Nor were they less successful in Virginia, where Lord Dunmore, having long continued a 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 crowd. ed 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, witii generals Clinton and Vauglian. As they had yei no intelligence of the evacuation of Boston, general Howe dispatched a vessel to Cape Fear with some instructions ; bui it was too late ; and in the beginning of June, the squadron anchored off Charleston bar. Here they met with some difficulty in crossing, being obliged to take out the guns from the two largest ships, which were notwithstan liny, several times in danger of sticking fast. The next obstacle was a strong fort on Sullivan's island, six miles east of Charleston, which, though not compleatiy finished, was very strony. However, the Britisi generals resolved wit out hesitation to attack it ; but though an attack was easy from sit, it was difficult to obtain a co-operation of th:igin forces.
Tis wai, :Owever, attempted by landing them on Lon: island adjacent to Sullivan's island on the east, from whii
it is separated by a very narrow creek, not above two feet deep at low wiker. Opposite to this ford, the provincials had posted a strong body of troops, with cannon and intrenchments; 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, à 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 pre. sence 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 palm trees, mixed with earth, were well calculated to resist the impression of cannon. During the height of the attack, the batteries of the provincials were silent, so that it was conclud. ed that they had been abandoned; but this was found to proceed from want of powder ; for, as soon as a supply of this article was obtained, the firing was resumed as brisk as before. During the whole of this desperate engagement, it was found impossible for the land forces to render any assistance to the fleet.
The enemy's works were found to be much stronger than had been imagined, and the depth of water effectually prevented them from making any attempt. In this unsuccessful attempt, the loss of the British in killed and wounded was two hundred. The Bristol and Experiment, were so much damaged, it was thought they could not get over the bar ; this they accomplished, however, by great exertion of naval skill, to the surprise of the provincials, who had expected to have made them both prizes. It was said the Americans lost considerable in this engagement.
In the beginning of March, commodore Hopkins, was dispatched by Congress, with five frigates to the Bahama islands, where he made himself master of the ordnance and military stores ; but the gunpowder which had been the principal object, was removed. On his return he cap. tured several vessels ; but was foiled in his attempt on the Glasgow frigate, which found means to escape, notwitlistanding the efforts of the whole squadron.
Hitherto the Americans had been generally successful, they had now to experience misfortune, misery and disappointment; the enemy over-running the country, and their own armies not able to face them in the field. The province of New York, being the most accessible by sea, was made the object for the main attack The force sent against it, consisted of six ships of the line, thirty frigates, besides. other armed vessels, and a vast number of transports. The fleet was commanded by lord Howe, and the land forces by his brother, general Sir William Howe, who was now at Halifax. The latter, however, had set sail a considerable time before his brother arrived, and lay before New-York, but without attempting to commence hostilites, until he should be joined by his brother.
The Americans had, according to custom, fortified New York, and the adjacent islands in an extraordinary manner. General Howe, notwithstanding was suffered to land his troops on Staten island, where he was soon join. ed by a number of inhabitants. About the middle of July, lord Howe arrived with the grand armament, and being one of the commissioners appointed to receive the submission of the colonists, he published a circular letter to the several governors, who had lately been expelled from their provinces, desiring them to make the extent of his commission, and the powers he was invested with by parliament, as public as possible.
Here, however, the Congress saved him trouble, by ordering his letter and declaration to be published in all the newsp.ipers, - That every one might see the insidi. ousness of the British ministry ; and, that they had noth. ing to liust to, besides the exertion of their own valour."
Lord Howe next sent a letter to general Washington ; but as it was directed “ To George Washington, Esq." the general refused to accept it, as not being in a style suited to his station. To obviate this objection, adjutante general Patterson, was sent with another letter, directed * To George Washington, &c. &c. &c." but though a very polite reception was given to the bearer, general Washin ton utterly refused the letter, nor could any explanation of the adjutant induce bim to accept of it. The only interesting part was that relating to the powers of the commissioners, of whom lord Howe was one.
The adjutant told him, that these powers were very ex. tensive; that the commissioners were determined to exert themselves to the utmost in order to bring about a reconciliation; and, that he hoped the general would consider this visit as a step towards it. General Washington replied, that it did not appear that these pover's consisted in any thing else than granting pardons; and as America had committed no offence, she asked no for. giveness ; and, was oniy defending her unquestionable rights.
The decision being now left to the sword, no time was lost, and hostili.its commenced as soon as the British troops could be collected. This was not done before the month of August, when they lunded without opposition on
Long island, opposite to the shore of Staten island. Gener ral Putnam, with a large body of troops, lay encamped, and strongly fortified on a peninsula on the opposite shore, with a range of bills between the armies, the principal pass of which was near a place called Flat-Bush ; here the centre of the British army, consisting of Hessians, took post; the left wing under general Grant, lying near the shore; and the right consisting of the greater part of the British forces, lay under lord Percy, Cornwallis, and general Clinton. Putnam had ordered the passes to be secured by large detachments, which was executed imme diately with those that were near ; but one of the most importance, that lay at a distance, was entirely neglected. Through this a large body of troops under lord Percy and Clinton, passed, and attacked the Americans in the rear, while they were engaged with the Hessians in front.
Through this piece of negligence their defeat became inevitable. Those who were engaged with the Hessians, first perceived their mistake, and began a retreat towards their camp; but the passage was intercepted by the Britis' troops, who drove them back into the woods, Here they were met by the Ilessians; and thus were they for many hour's slaughtered between two parties, no way of escape but by forcing their way through the British troops, and thus regaining their camp. In this attempt m..ny perished ; and the right wing, engaged with general Grant, shared the same fate. The victory was coinpleut; and the Americans lost, on this fatal day, August the twenty-seventh, upwards of one thousand men, and two generals : several officers of distinciion were m.de prisoners, with a number of privates. Among the slain, a regiment, consis'ing of young gentlemen of fortune and finily in Maryland, was almost entirely cut to pieces, and of the survivor's not one escaped without a wound.
The ardour of the British troops was now so great, that they could scarce be restrained from attacking the lines of the provinciis; but for this, there was now po occasion, as it was certain they could not be defenced ; but hid te adour of the soldiers been seconlirl, and general Howe pursued his victory; it might have given