Page images

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 prevailedi. General Moultrie, who was stationed with a body of troops to oppose their passage, was obliged to give way, and letreat towards Charleston ; and the British army, after encountering 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 which Charleston was exposed, animated the American general. A chosen body of American infantry 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 inneffectual, the British army approached within cannon shot of Charleston on the twelfth of May, 1779.

The town was now summoned to surrender, and the inbabitants would gladly have agreed to observe a neutra- . lity during the rest of the war, and would also have engaged for the province. But these terins not being accepted, they prepared for a vigorous defence. It was not in the power of the British commander, however, to succeed at this time in an attack; his artillery was not of sufficient weight, he had ne ships to support him, and he

knew that general Lincoln was advancing with a superior force; and that he would be liable to be inclosed between his forces and those in the town. So that certain destruction awaited him upon the failure of his first attempt upon the town. He therefore, prudently resolved to withdraw his forces, and took possession of two islands called St. James's and St. John's, lying to the southward; where, in a short time, his force was augmented by the arrival of two frigates; with these he determined to make himself master of Port Royal, another island possessed of a good harbour, and many other vatural advantages, commanding all the sea coast from Charleston to Savannah river. This however, he could not accomplish without opposition from the American general, who attempted to dislodge him from his post on St. John's island ; but after an obstinate and unsuccessful attempt, was obliged to retire with conderable loss.

The principal occasion of the success of the British was an arined float which galled the right flank of the Americans so effectually, that they could direct their efforts only against the strongest part of the lines, which was impregnable to their attacks. This disappointment was followed by the loss of Port Royal, which general Prevost took possession of, and stationed his troops in proper places, waiting the arrival of such reinforcements as were expected for the intended attack


Charleston. Count D'Estaing in the mean time, had put into Boston harbour to refit, and used his utmost efforts to gain the good will of the inhabitants. He also published a proclaination to be dispersed through Canada, inviting the people to return to their original friendship with France ; declaring that all who renounced their allegiance to the king of Great Britain, should be protected by the king of France,

The Canadians, however, were too wise to relinquish a present good, to depend upon the unsubstantial promises of a courtier, whose means were inadequate to his professions, and whose chief aim was to divide and ruin the British interest in America.

The French admiral, as soon as his fleet was refitted, and while admiral Byron's bad been shattered by a storm, took that opportunity of sailing to the West Indies.....

During his operations there, the Americans represented his conduct as totally unserviceable to them ; upon w ich he received orders from Europe to assist the colonies with all possible speed. Agreeably to these orders he directed his course towards Georgia, with the avowed design of recovering that province from the British, and to put it, as well as South Carolina, in such a state of defence, as would secure them from any future attack. This, upon a superficial view, appeared easy to be effected, as he knew there was but a small force to oppose bim.

The British feet and army at New York was next to be destroyed, and their total expulsion from America was anticipated as an event at no great distance. Full of these towering hopes the French admiral arrived off the coast of Georgia, with a fleet of twenty sail of the line and ten frigates.

His arrival was so unexpected, that several vessels laden with provisions fell into his hands. The Experiment, a fifty gun ship, commanded by Sir James Wallace, was taken, after a stout resistance. On the continent, the British troops were divided. General Prevost, with an inconsiderable party, was at Savannah; but the main force under colonel Maitland was at Port Royal.

On the first appearance of the French fleet, an express was sent off to colonel Maitland, but it was intercepted by the enemy; so that before he could set out to join the commander in chief, the Americans had secured the principal passes by land, while the French effectually blockaded the passage by sea. But by taking advantage of creeks and inlets, and marching over land, he arrived just in time to relieve Savannah.

D'Estaing had allowed general Prevost twenty-four hours to deliberate whether he should capitulate or not; ihis interval he made use of in making the best preparations in his power, and during this time colonel Maitland arrived. D’Estaing's summons was now rejected. The garrison consisted of three thousand men of approved valour and experience. The united force of the French and Ameri. cans was about ten thousa'id.

The event was answerable to the expectation of the British general: having the advantage of a strong fortification, and excellent engineers, the fire of the allies made but little

impression ; so that D'Estaing resolved to bombard the town, and a battery of nine mortars was erected for that purpose.

The allied commanders, from motives of policy, refused general Prevost's request to permit the women and children to retire to a place of safely, and they resolved to make a general assault. This was attempted on the ninth of October ; but the assailants were every where repulsed with great slaughter ; one thousand two hundred were kil. led and wounded; among the first was Count Pulaski, one of the conspirators against the king of Poland, and among the latter was D'Estaing himself.

This defeat entirely overthrew the sanguine hopes of the French and Americans ; after waiting eight days longer, the allied forces retreated; the French to their shipping, and the Americans to Carolina. About this time Sir George Collier was sent with a fleet, having general Matthews and a body of land forces on board, to Virginia. Their first attempt was against the town of Portsmouth, where the British troops carried off twenty vessels with an immense quantity of provisions, designed for general Washington's army, together with a variety of naval and military stores: at the same time and place were burnt one hundred and twenty vessels, after which the British returned to New York with little or no loss.

The successful issue of this expedition, encouraged them to undertake another. The Americans had erected two strong forts on the Hudson river, the one at Verplank's neck on the east, and the other at Stoney point on the west side ; these were likely to be of the utmost service to the Americans, as they commanded the principal pass called King's ferry, between the northern and southern colonies. The force employed upon this occasion, was divided into two bodies, one of which was directed against Verplank's, under the command of general Vaughan, the latter by general Patterson, while the shipping was under the direction of Sir George Collier. General Vaughan met with no resistance; the enemy abandoned their works at his approach, but at Stoney point, a vigorous defence was made. The garrison, notwithstanding was obliged to capitulate, but upon honourable conditions. General Clinton desirous to secure the possession of this last removed from

his former situation, and encamped in such a manner, that general Washington could not give any assistance.

The Americans, however, revenged theniscives of the British by distressing the trade of New York, by their numerous privateers. These privateers were chiefly built and harboured in Connecticut; an expedi'ion therefore, under the command of governor Tryon, and general Garth, an officer of known valour and experience, was undertaken under a convoy of a considerable number of armed vessels; they landed at New Haven, where they destroyed the batteries that had been erected to oppose them, besides a number of shipping and naval stores; but as the inhabitants did not fire upon the troops from the houses, the buildings in town were spared. . From New Haven they proceeded to Fairfield, which they reduced to ashes. Norwalk was next attacked, and afterwards Greenfield, a small sea-port in the neighbourhood, both of which were burnt.

These successes were ala ming, as well as detrimental to the Americans, so that general Washington was determined at all events, to drive the enemy from Stoney Point. For this purpose general Wayne was sent with a detach. ment of chosen men, with directions to take it by surprize. After the capture of it by the British, the fortifications had been compleated and made very strong; potwithstanding the Americans passed through a heavy fire of musquetry and grape shot, and in spite of all opposition obliged the surviving part of the garrison, consisting of five hundred men, to surrender themselves prisoners of war.

The Americans did not attempt to retain possession of Stoney Point, but their success in surprizing it, encouraged them to make a similar attack on Paulus Hook, a post strongly, fortified on the Jerse y side opposite to New York. After having completely surprized the posts, major Lee, the American commander, finding it impossible to retain them, niade an orderly retreat with about one hundred and sixty-one prisoners, among whom were seven officers.

Another expedition, and of greater importance was now undertaken by the Americans. This was against a post on the river Penobscot, on the borders of Nova-Scotia, of which the British had taken possession, and where they had begun to erect a fort which threatened to be very.

« PreviousContinue »