Page images

but to follow that example. He brought back, therefore, his own fleet into Brest, where, mortified at his recent failure, he resigned the command, and afterwards, it is said, withdrew for the remainder of his life into a convent.* Thus for the time did all danger of invasion pass away Thus, when the House of Commons met again, might the Prime Minister of England describe as follows, not unaptly, the proceedings of our enemies in the last campaign : — " They had fitted out a formidable fleet, they "appeared upon our coasts, they talked big, threatened "a great deal, did nothing, and retired. Their immense "armaments were paraded to no purpose, and their mil"lions spent in vain."

At this trying time, the English commander, Sir Charles Hardy — a good and gallant seaman, though a little past his prime,—appears to have performed his duty well. It is painful to contrast his conduct with that of other Admirals, not less personally brave, but who deemed that they fulfilled a superior obligation or an unavoidable necessity by seceding from service, and remaining on shore—there to do nothing, except indeed to cavil and find fault with whatever was done by others. Through the month of July we find Keppel, from his park of Bagshot, in his letters to Lord Rockingham, inveigh against "want of capacity in the chief commander," namely, his successor, Sir Charles Hardy; and observe that, "perhaps at this moment it (the British fleet) is "bungling into action." f Was Lord North — if I may quote him once again —was Lord North, I ask, far wrong when he compared Keppel himself to a gallant first-rate ship of war with all its sails set and streamers flying, but Keppel's party friends to barnacles that cluster beneath it, and that clog its progress? Better, surely, at such a crisis, even to "bungle into action" than to keep aloof from it!

* Amedee K«nee, Continuation de Sismondi (p. 122. ed. 1844), a work that cannot, however, be commended for accuracy. What will an English reader say to the following fact ? —"II faut se rap"peller que notre abaissement a nous, etait le but de la politique de '• Chatham. II faut se rappeller qu'il avait signg contrc nous la "terrible paix de 1763 I"

+ Life of Lord Keppel, vol. ii. p. 245. ed. 1842.

The insult to the British coast by the combined fleets of France and Spain was less galling to the national pride than some much smaller transactions in the North. Paul Jones —in his birth a Scotchman, in his feelings a bitter enemy to his native land, in his career and conduct a mere adventurer, but no doubt a bold and hardy seaman — held at this period a commission in the American service. With his squadron of three ships and one armed brigantine, off the coast of Yorkshire, he attacked our Baltic fleet, convoyed by Captain Pearson in the Serapis, and Captain Piercy in the Scarborough. Both these ships he took, after a most desperate engagement; and though his own principal vessel, the Bonhomme Richard, which had been supplied by France, was so far damaged in the action that it sank two days afterwards, yet he carried his prizes safe into the ports of Holland. Paul Jones, with his remaining ships, next appeared in the Frith of Forth. Sir Walter Scott, then still a boy, was at Edinburgh on this occasion, and has vividly described the humiliation felt by the better spirits that the capital of Scotland should be threatened by what seemed to be three trifling sloops or brigs, scarce fit to have sacked a fishing village. But Edinburgh was not devoid of brave men to resist as well as feel. There chanced to be at hand Alexander Stuart of Invernahyle, one of the Stuarts of Appin, a veteran who, according to their phrase, had been "out in the "Forty Five," and who now exulted in the prospect, as he said himself, "of drawing his claymore once again "before he died." He offered to the magistrates, if broadswords and dirks could be obtained, to find as many Highlanders among the lower classes as would suffice to defend the town. The magistrates deliberated, but came to no decision on his scheme. As is added by Sir Walter Scott: "A steady and powerful west wind settled the "matter by sweeping Paul Jones and his vessels out of "the Frith of Forth."*

The war between the Great Powers now at issue was waged in various quarters of the globe. Earlier in the

* See the Historical Introduction to Waverley, p. 102. revised ed. 1829. But two of Jones's ships were larger than Scott supposed.

year an ill-concerted attack of the French upon the Isle of Jersey was easily repelled, and only exposed to ridicule the swelling name of its projector—a Prince or Count de Nassau-Siegen. Further south the Spaniards lost no time in commencing, first, the blockade, and afterwards the siege of Gibraltar. On the coast of Africa the French took Senegal, but lost Goree. In the West Indies Count d'Estaing availed himself of the departure of his antagonist, Admiral Byron, who had sailed to escort our fleet of merchant-men to a certain distance on their homeward course. In his absence d'Estaing succeeded in reducing both St. Vincent and Granada. The return of Byron was delayed for some time by adverse winds and currents: when he did appear once more, he endeavoured to bring the French commander to a close and decisive action. This, however, by means of a timely retreat at night, d'Estaing was enabled to avoid. His next object was, in concert with the Americans, to wrest from us our recent conquest of Savannah. In the month of September, accordingly, he appeared off that place with his fleet, while General Lincoln brought him some land forces. They attempted to storm the town, attacking in two columns; but the British troops, headed by General Prevost, made a valiant defence, and beat back the assailants. Upon this the French fleet separated, a part steering again to the West Indies, while D'Estaing himself returned to his native shores. Not many characters more worthless appear on the page of history. Charles Hector, Count d'Estaing, began his career by breaking his parole, when a prisoner of war, to the English at Madras. Suitably, at least, Count d'Estaing closed his career with foul calumnies against his suffering Queen, the ill-fated Marie Antoinette — calumnies that yet did not save him, as he had hoped, from partaking the same guillotine.

"The campaign of 1779," says a trans-Atlantic historian, "is remarkable for the feeble exertions of the Ame"ricans." * The same, though perhaps with a clearer reason for it, might be said of the English in that country. And first as to the Southern states In these

[ocr errors]

many loyalists came forth, and enrolled themselves in arms for the service of the Crown. The war was carried by them and by the Royal troops from Georgia into the Carolinas, and was waged in several small encounters with varying success. At New York Sir Henry Clinton's numbers were so far reduced, and his promised reinforcements so long in coming, that he could undertake no distant nor decisive object. He could only, in concert with the Admiral, Sir George Collier, send forth some smaller expeditions. One of these destroyed the Americans' stores and shipping at the mouth of the Chesapeak. Another, under Governor Tryon, with a body of loyalists, did cruel execution along the Connecticut coast. Another still afforded succour to a new British station in the bay of Penobscot, and scattered a flotilla from Massachusetts, which had been sent against it. The American crews and soldiers, driven to shore in a desert country, for the most part perished miserably in the woods. The British fleet was also employed by Sir Henry Clinton in withdrawing the British troops from Rhode Island, where they had been stationed so long and to so little purpose.

In an enterprise of greater importance, Sir Henry, together with Sir George, commanded in person. Ascending the Hudson above fifty miles, they reduced both Stony Point and Verplank's Neck, two strong posts on opposite sides of the river. But not many weeks elapsed ere Stony Point was surprised and retaken by the enemy. This exploit was performed with great skill and gallantry by the American General Wayne; and though on the news that Clinton was again advancing he could not retain his conquest, he was able to destroy the works and to carry off above 500 prisoners. Another surprise, conducted by Major Henry Lee, on the British garrison atPaulus Hook, opposite New York, proved almost equally successful. Here, however, the Americans withdrew too soon for their credit. if, as Clinton declares in his despatch, "their "retreat was as disgraceful as their attack had been "spirited and well-conducted." *

* Major Lee himself says, in a confidential letter to his friend President Reed: "In my report to General Washington, I passed the "usual general compliments on the troops under my command. I


Through the winter and spring "Washington had fixed his encampment at his former post of Middlebrook. In the. summer his head-quarters were for the most part at West Point, where he superintended the completion of the works, but could achieve or direct no enterprise beyond those of Wayne and Henry Lee. His army, besides being reduced in numbers, was ill-paid, ill-fed, and ill-clothed; and the Congress showed no alacrity to supply his wants. One cause of the remissness at this time, both in the Congress and the people of America, lay in the exaggerated expectations which they had formed from the French alliance. Believing that their new confederates would within a few weeks or months drive the British out of their country for them, they had cooled in their zeal and slackened in their efforts. Another and still more efficient cause lay in the fearful and wide-spread distress produced among them by the depreciation of their paper-money. That paper-money had gradually fallen to one-twentieth, to one-thirtieth, nay even in some cases to less than onehundredth of its nominal value. But perhaps one practical instance may make this case the clearer. In December of this year, and in the State of Maryland, an English officer, one of the Convention troops, received an inn-keeper's bill, which in his Travels he has printed at full length, amounting in paper-money to 732/. and some shillings, and this bill he paid in gold with four guineas and a half! *

It is plain how grievous, nay almost intolerable, was this depreciation to every man in the public service. Thus writes Washington to a familiar friend:—"Without "some new measures what funds can stand the present "expenses of the army? And what officers can bear "the weight of prices that every necessary article is now "got to? A rat, in the shape of a horse, is not to be "bought at this time for less than two hundred pounds, "nor a saddle under thirty or forty; boots twenty, and "shoes and other articles in like proportion. How is it "possible, therefore, for officers to stand this without an

"did not tell the world 'hat near one half of my countrymen left "me." (Life of Reed, vol. ii. p. 126.) • Anburey's Travels, vol. ii. p. 492.

« PreviousContinue »