"Well, thank God for that, William," replied his brother, giving him a hearty shake by the hand — "And now only say the word, my boy, and here is a commission for you, with regimentals and gold to boot, to fight for his majesty."
Jasper shook his head and observed, that though there was but little encouragement to fight FOR his country, yet he could not find in his heart to fight AGAINST her. And there the conversation ended.
After staying with his brother some two or three days, inspecting and hearing all that he could, he took his leave, and by a round about, returned to camp, and told general Lincoln all that he had seen.
Having wasted several weeks longer of tiresome idleness, and no news of the French fleet, Jasper took it into his head to make another trip to Ebenezer.
On this occasion he did not, as before, go alone, but took with him his particular friend, sergeant Newton, son of an old Baptist preacher, and a young fellow, for strength and courage, just about a good match for Jasper himself.
He was received as usual, with great cordiality by his brother, to whom he introduced his friend Newton, and spent several days in the British fort, without giving the least alarm. On the morning of the third day his brother had some bad news to tell him.
"Aye! what is it?" he asked, "what is it?"
"Why," replied his brother, "here are some ten or a dozen American prisoners, brought in this morning, as deserters from Savannah, whither they are to be sent immediately. And from what I can learn, it will be apt to go hard with them, for it seems they have all taken the king's bounty."
"Let's see 'em," said Jasper, "let's see 'em."
So his brother took him and Newton to see them. And indeed it was a mournful sight to behold them, where they sat, poor fellows! all hand-cuffed, on the ground. But all pity of them was forgot, soon as the eye was turned to a far more doleful sight hard by, which was a young woman, wife of one of the prisoners, with her child, a sweet little boy of about five years old. The name of this lady was Jones. Her humble garb showed her to be poor, but her deep distress, and sympathy with her unfortunate husband, showed that she was rich in that pure conjugal love, that is more precious than all gold.
She generally sat on the ground opposite to her husband, with her little boy leaning on her lap, and her coal black hair spreading in long neglected tresses on her neck and bosom. And thus in silence she sat, a statue of grief, sometimes with her eyes hard fixed upon the earth, like one lost in thought, sighing and groaning the while as if her heart would burst — then starting, as from a reverie, she would dart her eager eyes, red with weeping, on her husband's face, and there would gaze, with looks so piercing sad, as though she saw him struggling in the halter, herself a widow, and her son an orphan. Straight her frame would begin to shake with the rising agony, and her face to change and swell; then with eyes swimming in tears, she would look around upon us all, for pity and for help, with cries sufficient to melt the heart of a demon. While the child seeing his father's hands fast bound, and his mother weeping, added to the distressing scene, by his artless cries and tears.
The brave are always tender-hearted. It was so with Jasper and Newton, two of the most undaunted spirits that ever lived. They walked out in the neighboring wood. The tear was in the eye of both. Jasper first broke silence. "Newton," said he, "my days have been but few; but I believe their course is nearly done."
"Why so, Jasper?"
"Why, I feel," said he, "that I must rescue these poor prisoners, or die with them; otherwise that woman and her child will haunt me to my grave."
"Well, that is exactly what I feel too," replied Newton — "and here is my hand and heart to stand by you, my brave friend, to the last drop. Thank God, a man can die but once, and there is not so much in this life that a man need be afraid to leave it, especially when he is in the way of his duty."
The two friends then embraced with great cordiality, while each read in the other's countenance, that immortal fire which beams from the eyes of the brave, when resolved to die or conquer in some glorious cause.
Immediately after breakfast, the prisoners were sent on for Savannah, under a guard of a sergeant and corporal with eight men. They had not been gone long, before Jasper, accompanied by his friend Newton, took leave of his brother, and set out on some errand to the upper country. They had scarcely, however, got out of sight of Ebenezer, before they struck into the piny woods, and pushed hard after the prisoners and their guard, whom they closely dogged for several miles, anxiously watching an opportunity to make a blow. But alas! all hopes of that sort seemed utterly extravagant; for what could give two men a chance to contend against ten, especially when there was found no weapon in the hands of the two, while the ten, each man was armed with his loaded musket and bayonet. But unable to give up their countrymen, our heroes still followed on.
About two miles from Savannah there is a famous spring, generally called the 'Spa', well known to travellers, who often turn in hither to quench their thirst. "Perhaps," said Jasper, "the guard may stop there." Then hastening on by a near cut through the woods, they gained the Spa, as their last hope, and there concealed themselves among the bushes that grew abundantly around the spring.
Presently the mournful procession came in sight, headed by the sergeant, who, on coming opposite to the spring, ordered a halt. Hope sprung afresh in our heroes' bosoms, strong throbbing too, no doubt, with great alarms, for "it was a fearful odds." The corporal with his guard of four men, conducted the prisoners to the spring, while the sergeant with the other four, having grounded their arms near the road, brought up the rear. The prisoners, wearied with their long walk, were permitted to rest themselves on the earth. Poor Mrs. Jones, as usual, took her seat opposite to her husband, and her little boy, overcome with fatigue, fell asleep in her lap. Two of the corporal's men were ordered to keep guard, and the other two to give the prisoners drink out of their canteens. These last approached the spring where our heroes lay concealed, and resting their muskets against a pine tree, dipped up water: and having drank themselves, turned away, with replenished canteens, to give the prisoners also. "Now! Newton, is our time!" said Jasper. Then bursting, like two lions, from their concealment, they snatched up the two muskets that were rested against the pine, and in an instant shot down the two soldiers that kept guard. And now the question was, who should first get the two loaded muskets that had just fallen from the hands of the slain. For by this time the sergeant and corporal, a couple of brave Englishmen, recovering from their momentary panic, had sprung and seized upon the muskets; but before they could use them, the strong swift-handed Americans, with clubbed guns, levelled each at the head of his brave antagonist, the final blow. The tender bones of the skull gave way beneath the furious strokes, and with wide scattered blood and brains down they sunk, pale and quivering to the earth without a groan. Then snatching up the guns which had thus, a second time, fallen from the hands of the slain, they flew between the surviving enemy, and ordered them to surrender, which they instantly did.
Having called the prisoners to them, they quickly with the point of their bayonets, broke off their handcuffs, and gave each of them a musket.
At the commencement of the fray, poor Mrs. Jones, half frightened to death, had fallen to the ground in a swoon, with her little son piteously screaming over her. But when she came to herself, and saw her husband and friends around her, all freed from their fetters and well armed, she looked and behaved like one frantic with joy. She sprung to her husband's bosom, and with her arms around his neck, sobbed out, "Oh bless God! bless God! my husband is safe; my husband is not hung yet;" then snatching up her child, and straining him to her soul, as if she would have pressed him to death, she cried out — "O praise! praise! praise God for ever! my son has a father yet!" Then wildly darting round her eyes in quest of her deliverers, she exclaimed, "Where! where are those blessed angels that God sent to save my husband?"
Directing her eyes to Jasper and Newton, where they stood like two youthful Samsons, in the full flowing of their locks, she ran and fell on her knees before them, and seizing their hands, kissed and pressed them to her bosom, crying out vehemently, "Dear angels! dear angels! God bless you! God Almighty bless you for ever!"
Then instantly, for fear of being overtaken by the enemy, our heroes snatched the arms and regimentals of the slain, and with their friends and captive foes, recrossed the Savannah, and in safety rejoined our army at Purysburgh, to the inexpressible astonishment and joy of us all.
The count D'Estang, with the French fleet, arrives to attack Savannah — our army marches and joins him — fatal effects of D'Estang's politeness — biographical dash of young colonel Laurens — curious dialogue betwixt him and the French general — unsuccessful attack on Savannah — the brave Jasper mortally wounded — is visited by the author in his last moments — interesting conversation — dies like a Christian soldier.
Could the wishes of our army have availed, those gallant soldiers, (Jasper and Newton) would long have lived to enjoy their past, and to win fresh laurels. But alas! the former of them, the heroic Jasper, was soon led, like a young lion, to an evil net. The mournful story of his death, with heavy heart I now relate.
Scarcely had he returned from Georgia, laden, as aforesaid, with glory, when an express came into camp, and informed that the count D'Estang was arrived off Tybee. Instantly we struck our tents and marched for the siege of Savannah. On arriving near that fatal place, we found that the French troops, with their cannon and mortars, had just come up. Oh! had we but advanced at once to the attack, as became skilful soldiers, we should have carried every thing before us. The frighted garrison would have hauled down their colors without firing a shot. This I am warranted to say by the declaration of numbers of their officers, who afterwards fell into our hands. But in place of an immediate 'coup de main', the courtly D'Estang sent a flag, very politely inviting the town to do him the extreme honor of receiving their surrender.
The British commander was not much behindhand with the count in the article of politeness, for he also returned a flag with his compliments, and requested to be permitted four and twenty hours to think of the matter.
If the ASKING such a favor was extraordinary, what must the GRANTING of it have been? But the accomplished D'Estang was fully equal to such douceurs for he actually allowed the enemy four and twenty hours to think of surrendering!
But instead of THINKING, like simpletons, they fell to ENTRENCHING, like brave soldiers. And being joined that very day by colonel Maitland from Beaufort, with a regiment of Highlanders, and assisted by swarms of negroes, decoyed from their masters under promise of freedom, they pushed on their works with great rapidity. According to the report of our troops who were encamped nearest to them, nothing was heard all that night, but the huzzas of the soldiers, the lashes of cow-hides, and the cries of negroes.
I never beheld Marion in so great a passion. I was actually afraid he would have broke out on general Lincoln. "My God!" he exclaimed, "who ever heard of any thing like this before! — first allow an enemy to entrench, and then fight him!! See the destruction brought upon the British at Bunker's Hill! and yet our troops there were only militia! raw, half-armed clodhoppers! and not a mortar, nor carronade, nor even a swivel — but only their ducking guns!
"What then are we to expect from regulars — completely armed with a choice train of artillery, and covered by a breast-work! For my own part, when I look upon my brave fellows around me, it wrings me to the heart, to think how near most of them are to their bloody graves."
In fact, Marion was so outrageous, as indeed were all of us, that we at length begged colonel Laurens to speak to the count D'Estang.
And here I must beg the reader's pardon a moment, while I inform him that this colonel Laurens (son of President Laurens) was a very extraordinary young Carolinian.
On a trip to London, he fell in love with, and married a celebrated belle of that city. It would seem that he was very much taken with his English relations, and they with him, for after his marriage, they would not suffer him to revisit his parents, who doted on him, being their only son, but detained him with them in London, as gay as a young man well could be, in the gayest city in the world, moving every day in the highest circles of society, and every night encircled in the fond arms of a beauteous wife.
But soon as the war against America broke out, his gaiety all forsook him. The idea of a ruffian soldiery overrunning his native land, preyed incessantly on his spirits, and threw him into those brown studies which cost his lady full many a tear. Unable to bear his disquietude, he fled at length from his wife and infant family, to fight for his country. He presented himself before the great Washington, who was so struck with the fire that beamed from his eyes, that he made him handsome offers of rank in the army. But his favorite service was to lead 'forlorn hopes', and the daring bands that are destined to carry the enemy's works by storm. Washington often gave him letters to this effect to his generals. And this was his object at Savannah, where a regiment of choice infantry was immediately put under his command. But instead of being permitted his favorite pleasure of seeing his ardent warriors mounting the enemy's works, and rushing down streams of fire, followed by the bayonet, he was doomed to fret and pine in the humble office of interpreter between count D'Estang and general Lincoln.
"But, Monsieur le count," said Laurens to D'Estang, "the American officers say they are afraid you have given the English too long time to think."
At this, as Laurens told us afterwards, the count put on a most comic stare, and breaking into a hearty laugh, replied, "De Engleesh think! ha, ha, ha! By gar dat one ver good parole! De Engleesh tink, heh, Monsieur le colonel! By gar, de Engleesh never tink but for deir bellie. Give de Jack Engleeshman plenty beef — plenty pudding — plenty porter, by gar he never tink any more, he lay down, he go a sleep like vun hog."
"But, Monsieur le count," continued Laurens, "the English are doing worse for us than thinking. They are working away like horses, and will soon get their defences too high for us to scale."
"Eh, heh, Monsieur le colonel! you think-a so? Well den, by gar you no need for tink-a so — by gar my French-a-mans run over de fence just like vun tief horse run over de cornfield fence — mind now I tell-a you dat, Monsieur le colonel."
"Well, but Monsieur le count, the British sometimes fight like the d—-l."
"Sacre Dieu!" replied the nettled count, starting and gaping as though he would have swallowed a young alligator — "de Briteesh fight like de diable! Jaun foutre de Briteesh! when they been known for fight like de diable? Ess, ess, dat true enough; dey fight de Americans like de diable — but by gar dey no fight de French-a-mans so — no no, by gar dey no make one mouthful for my French-a-mans — Morbleu! my French-a-mans eat dem up like vun leetle grenoulle."
"Green Owl!" exclaimed one of general Lincoln's aids — "Oh my God! who ever heard of a 'green owl' before?"
Here Laurens, smiling at the officer's mistake, replied, "not 'green owl', sir, but 'grenouille', grenouille, sir, is the French for frog."
"Aye, sure enough, sure enough, frog," continued the count, "frog; grenouille is frog. By gar, Monsieur le colonel, you be vun dam good interpret, I set dat well enough. Well den, now, Monsieur le colonel, you hear-a me speak — my French-a-mans eat dem Jack Engleesh all same like vun leetle frog."
"Oh to be sure! — no doubt of all that, Monsieur le count — but before we eat them up, they may kill a great many of our soldiers."
"Dey kill-a de soldier!" replied the passionate count — "well what den if dey do kill-a de soldier! Jaun foutre de soldier! what dey good for but for be kill? dat deir trade. You give-a vun poor dog soldier, two, three, four penny a day, he go fight — he get kill. Well den, what dat? By gar he only get what he HIRE for."
"But pardon me, Monsieur le count, we can't spare them."
"Vat! no spare de soldier! de GRAND MONARQUE no spare de soldier? O mon Dieu! Vy, Monsieur le colonel — for why you talk-a so? Well den, hear-a me speak now, Monsieur le colonel — you see de star in de sky; de leaf on de tree; de sand on de shore — you no see all dat, heh? Well den, by gar, Monsieur le colonel, de GRAND MONARQUE got soldier more an-a all dat — ess, sacra Dieu! more an-a all dat, by gar."
"Well but, Monsieur le count, is it not CRUEL to kill the poor fellows notwithstanding?"
"Pooh!" replied the count, throwing back his head, and puffing out his cheeks as when a cigar sucker explodes a cataract of smoke from the crater of his throat; "cruel! vat cruel for kill-a de soldier! by gar, Monsieur le colonel, you make-a de king of France laugh he hear-a you talk after dat fashong. Let-a me tell you, Monsieur le colonel, de king of France no like general Washington — by gar, general Washington talk wi' de soldier — he shake hand wi' de soldier — he give de soldier dram — By gar, de GRAND MONARQUE no do so — no, sacra Dieu! he no LOOK AT de soldier. When de king of France ride out in de coach royale wid de supeerb horses, and harness shining so bright all vun like gold, if he run over one soldier, you tink he going stop for dat? No, sacra foutre! he ride on so, all one like if nothing at all been happen. Jaun foutre de soldier! let him prenez garde for himself; by gar the grand Monarque no mind dat. De grand Monarque only tink of de soldier 'commes des chiens', like de poor dam dog for fight for him."
Thus ended the dialogue between colonel Laurens and the count D'Estang.
The next day, the memorable twenty-four hours being expired, a flag was sent into town to know the determination of the British officer, who very politely replied, that having consulted his pillow, he had made up his mind to defend the place. A regular siege was then commenced, and continued for three weeks: at the end of which an attack was made, and with the success which Marion had all along predicted. After a full hour's exposure to the destructive rage of grape shot and musketry, we were obliged to make a precipitate retreat; leaving the ground covered with the mingled carcasses of 400 Americans and 800 Frenchmen. Marion's corps fighting with their usual confidence, suffered great loss; himself did not receive a scratch. Colonel Laurens raged like a wounded lion. Soon as the retreat was ordered he paused, and looking round on his fallen men, cried out, "Poor fellows, I envy you!" then hurling his sword in wrath against the ground, he retired. Presently, after we had reached our encampment, he came to my marquee, and like one greatly disordered, said, "Horry, my life is a burden to me; I would to God I was lying on yonder field at rest with my poor men!"
"No! no! none of that, colonel," said I, "none of that; I trust we shall live to pay them yet for all this."
And so it turned out. And though for humanity's sake, I ought not to BOAST of it, yet we did live to pay them for it, and often too: and in the same bloody coin which they gave us that day. And although in that fiery season of my days, and when my dear country was in danger, it was but natural for me to rejoice in the downfall of my enemies, yet I was often witness to scenes, which to this day I can never think of but with sorrow — as when, for example, after dashing upon an enemy by surprise, and cutting one half of them to pieces and chasing the rest, we returned to collect the horses and arms of the slain. Who, I say, without grief could behold those sad sights which then offered themselves, of human beings lying mangled over the crimson ground — some stone dead, some still alive and struggling, with brains oozing from their cloven skulls — and others sitting up, or leaning on their elbows, but pale with loss of blood, running in streams from their mortal wounds, and they themselves looking down, the while, sadly thinking of home and of distant wives and children, whom they shall never see again.
Such thoughts, if often cherished, would much abate the rancor of malice in the hearts of those whose sad destiny it is to kill one another; especially if it were known how short sometimes are the triumphs of the victor. It was remarkably so in the present case: for colonel Maitland, of the Highlanders, who had contributed a large part to this very unexpected victory, was so elated by it, that he took to hard drinking, and killed himself in a single week, and the sickly season coming on, the greater part of the garrison perished of the yellow or bilious fever!!
Thus friends and foes the same sad fortune shar'd, And sickness swallowed whom the sword had spar'd.
Many gallant men were the victims of count D'Estang's folly in this affair; among the number was that impetuous Polander, the count Polaski.
But none fell more universally lamented than the heroic Jasper. Every reader must wish to hear the last of this brave and generous soldier. And they shall have it faithfully, for I happened to be close by him when he received his death's wound; and I was with him when he breathed his last.
Early in the action, the elegant colors presented by Mrs. Elliot, had been planted on the enemy's works; and the fury of the battle raged near the spot where they waved. During the whole of the bloody fray, Jasper had remained unhurt. But on hearing the retreat sounded, he rushed up to bear off his colors, and in that desperate act, was mortally wounded. As he passed by me, with the colors in his hands, I observed he had a bad limp in his walk.
"You are not much hurt, I hope, Jasper," said I.
"Yes, major," he replied, "I believe I have got my furlough."
"Pshaw," quoth I, "furlough indeed, for what?"
"Why to go home," he answered, "to go to Heaven, I hope."
"Pooh!" said I, and having, as the reader must suppose, a good deal to attend to, I turned off and left him. However, his words made such an impression on me, that soon as duty permitted, I went to see him, and found too true what he had predicted; the ball had opened a blood vessel in the lungs which no art could stop, and he was bleeding to slow but certain death.
As I entered the tent, he lifted his eyes to me, but their fire was almost quenched; and stretching his feeble hand, he said, with perfect tranquillity, "Well, major, I told you I had got my furlough."
"I hope not," I replied.
"O yes!" said he, "I am going — and very fast too; but, thank God, I am not afraid to go."
I told him I knew he was too brave to fear death, and too honest to be alarmed about its consequences.
"Why, as to that matter, sir," said he, "I won't brag: but I have my hopes, notwithstanding I may be wrong, for I know I am but a poor ignorant body, but somehow or other, I have always built my hopes of what God may do for me hereafter, on what he has done for me here!"
I told him I thought he was very correct in that.
"Do you, indeed?" said he. "Well, I am mighty glad of that — and now major, here's the way I always comfort myself: Fifty years ago, (I say to myself,) I was nothing, and had no thought that there was any such grand and beautiful world as this. But still there was such a world notwithstanding; and here God has brought me into it. Now, can't he, in fifty years more, or indeed in fifty minutes more, bring me into another world, as much above this as this is above that state of nothing, wherein I was fifty years ago?"
I told him that this was, to my mind, a very happy way of reasoning; and such, no doubt, as suited the greatness and goodness of God.
"I think so, major," said he, "and I trust I shall find it so; for though I've been a man of blood, yet, thank God, I've always lived with an eye to that great hope. My mother, major, was a good woman; when I was but a child, and sat on her lap, she used to talk to me of God, and tell how it was he who built this great world, with all its riches and good things: and not for himself, but for ME! and also, that if I would but do his will in that only acceptable way, a good life, he would do still greater and better things for me hereafter.
"Well, major, from the mouth of a dear mother, like her, these things went so deep into my heart, that they could never be taken away from me. I have hardly ever gone to bed, or got up again, without saying my prayers. I have honored my father and mother; and, thank God, been strictly HONEST. And since you have known me, major, I believe you can bear witness, that though a strong man, I never was quarrelsome."
I told him, nothing afforded me more satisfaction, than to remember that, since he was now going to die, he had always led so good a life.
He answered, with tears in his eyes, that he had a good hope he was going where he should not do what he had been obliged to do in this world. "I've killed men in my time, major, but not in malice, but in what I thought a just war in defence of my country. And as I bore no malice against those I killed, neither do I bear any against those who have killed me. And I heartily trust in God for Christ's sake, that we shall yet, one day, meet together, where we shall forgive and love one another like brothers. I own, indeed, major, that had it so pleased God, I should have been glad to stay a little longer with you to fight for my country. But however, I humbly hope that my death is of God; which makes it welcome to me, and so I bow me to his blessed will. And now, my good friend, as I feel I have but a little time to live, I beg you will do a few things for me when I am dead and gone."
I could not speak; but gathering my answer from my tears, and the close press I gave his hand, he thus went on, but it was in a low voice and laborious.
"You see that sword? — It is the one which governor Rutledge presented to me for my services at Fort Moultrie — give that sword to my father, and tell him I never dishonored it. If he should weep for me, tell him his son died in hope of a better life. If you should see that great gentlewoman, Mrs. Elliot, tell her I lost my life in saving the colors she gave to our regiment. And if ever you should come across poor Jones and his wife, and little boy, tell them Jasper is gone; but that the remembrance of the hard battle which he once fought for their sakes brought a secret joy to his heart just as it was about to stop its motion for ever."
He spoke these last words in a livelier tone than usual, but it was like the last kindling of the taper in its oil-less socket — for instantly the paleness of death overspread his face, and after a feeble effort to vomit, with convulsions, the natural effect of great loss of blood, he sunk back and expired.
From this victim of D'Estang's madness, I went with a heavy heart on parade, to take a review of the sad remains of the battle. The call of the roll completed the depression of my spirits. To every fourth or fifth name there was no answer — the gloomy silence which ensued, told us where they were. About twelve o'clock we sent in a flag to the garrison for permission to bury our dead. Curiosity led me to accompany the party destined to this mournful duty. I had prepared myself for a sorrowful sight; but ah! what words can express what I then saw and suffered!
A scattered few lay here and there on the utmost verge of the field, killed by cannon shot, and so mangled, that in some instances, it was hard to tell who they were. As we advanced, they lay thicker and thicker. Some, not quite dead, were constantly crying, "Water! water! — Oh! for God's sake, a little water!" — Others lay quite dead, but still their lifeless visages retained the dark frowns of war. There, on the side of the enemy's breast-work, lay the brave ensign Boushe, covering with his dead body, the very spot where he had fixed the American standard. His face was pale and cold as the earth he pressed, but still it spoke the fierce determined air of one whose last sentiment towards those degenerate Britons was, "There d—n you! look at the stripes of liberty."
Close by ensign Boushe, lay that elegant young man, Alexander Hume, Esq. with his sword still grasped in his stiffened fingers. My heart bled within me, when I looked on young Hume, where he lay in all the pale beauties of death. He was to have been married the week following, to a charming woman; but such was his zeal to serve his country, that he came a volunteer to our camp, and met his death the next morning after he joined us. Gifted with a pretty taste for painting, he had tried his skill, and very successfully too, in sketching the likeness of his lovely mistress. For on opening his bosom, was found, suspended by a blue ribband, (the happy lover's color) a fine likeness of the beautiful Miss ——: the back of the portrait was stained with his blood; but unconscious of her lover's fate, she still wore the enchanting smile with which yielding beauty views the youth she loves.
We then proceeded to bury our dead; which was done by digging large pits, sufficient to contain about a hundred corpses. Then taking off their clothes, with heavy hearts, we threw them into the pits, with very little regard to order, and covered them over with earth.
"Poor brothers, farewell! the storm of your last battle has long ago ceased on the field, and no trace now remains on earth that you ever lived. The worms have devoured your flesh; and the mounds raised over your dust, are sunk back to the common level with the plain. But ah! could your mournful story be read, the youth of America would listen to the last words of Washington, and 'study the art of war,' that their countrymen might no more be murdered by military quacks.
As a hint to American officers, I think it my duty to state the following fact: — Our fatal attack on Savannah was made very early in the morning. A few hours previous thereto, a council of war was held; and while it was deliberating, a deserter and spy had the address to bear a musket, as sentinel at the door of the marquee!! On hearing where the attack was to be made, he ran off in the dark, and gave such intelligence to the enemy, as enabled them very completely to defeat us. The fellow was afterwards taken at the battle of Hobkirk Hill, near Camden, and hung.
Scarcely had we finished burying the dead, before the count D'Estang hurried on board his ships with his troops and artillery, while we, passing on in silence by the way of Zubley's ferry, returned to Carolina, and pitched our tents at Sheldon, the country seat of general Bull.
The theatre of war being, from this period, and for some time at least, removed to the northern states, the governor and council were pleased to reduce the regiments, and dismiss the supernumerary officers. To some of my brethren in arms, this was matter of serious alarm. But for myself, possessing, thank God, a liberal fortune in the country, and feeling no ATTRACTION to the camp, except when drawn thither by public danger, I was quite happy to hear of this new arrangement, and waited on his excellency to return my commission.
Perhaps some may say it was pride in me, and that I did not like the idea of being 'unfrocked'. Why, as to that matter, it is not for me to boast of my standing among my superiors in those days. But this I must needs say, that it is joy enough, and glory enough too, for me to know, that I was always the favorite of the great Marion; and that he seldom ever asked the lightning of any other sword than mine, to lead his squadron to the charge. However, the moment I heard, as above, that it was in agitation to reduce the regiments, I waited on the governor, and begged that, as there was nothing doing, he would allow me to return to my plantation. To my plantation I DID return, and there continued till spring, 1780, when Charleston was taken by the British; at which time, and for some weeks before, I was grievously afflicted with the rheumatism. Thus by a providence, which, I confess, I did not at that time altogether like, I was kindly saved from being kidnapped by the enemy, and also introduced into a field of some little service, I hope, to my country, and of no great dishonor to myself. However, be this as it may, the reader shall soon see, and then let him judge for himself.
Providential escape of Marion out of Charleston — the British fleet and army invest and take that place — Tarleton and the British officers begin to let out — young Scotch Macdonald comes upon the turf — extraordinary anecdote of him — plays a very curious trick on a rich old tory.
How happy it is for man, that the author of his being loves him so much better than he loves himself; and has established so close a connexion between his duty and his advantage. This delightful truth was remarkably exemplified in an event that befell Marion about this time, March, 1780. Dining with a squad of choice whigs, in Charleston, in the house of Mr. Alexander M'Queen, Tradd street, he was so frequently pressed to bumpers of old wine, that he found himself in a fair way to get drunk. 'Twas in vain he attempted to beat a retreat. The company swore, that that would never do for general Marion. Finding, at last, that there was no other way of escaping a debauch, but by leaping out of one of the windows of the dining-room, which was on the second story, he bravely undertook it. It cost him, however, a broken ankle. When the story got about in Charleston, most people said he was a great fool for his pains; but the event soon proved that Marion was in the right, and that there is no policy like sticking to a man's duty. For, behold! presently Charleston was invested by a large British army, and the American general (Lincoln) finding Marion was utterly unfit for duty, advised him to push off in a litter to his seat in St. John's parish. Thus providentially was Marion preserved to his country when Charleston fell, as it soon did, with all our troops.
The spirits of the British were so raised by the capture of our metropolis with all the southern army, that they presently began to scour the neighboring country. And never victors, perhaps, had a country more completely in their power. Their troops were of the choicest kind; excellently equipped, and commanded by active, ambitious young fellows, who looked on themselves as on the high road to fortune among the conquered rebels. They all carried with them pocket maps of South Carolina, on which they were constantly poring like young spendthrifts on their fathers' last testaments. They would also ask a world of questions, such as, "where lay the richest lands? — and the finest situations? — and who were the warmest old fellows, and had the finest girls?" and when answered to their humor, they would break out into hearty laughs; and flourish their swords, and 'whoop' and 'hoic' it away like young fox hunters, just striking on a fresh trail.
Some of them had Dr. Madan's famous book called "Thylipthora, or a Defence of Polygamy", with which they were prodigiously taken, and talked very freely of reducing the system to practice. Cornwallis, it seems, was to be a bashaw of three tails — Rawdon and Tarleton, of two each — and as a natural appendage of such high rank, they were to have their seraglios and harems filled with the greatest beauties of the country.
"Huzza, my brave fellows!" — they would say to each other; "one more campaign and the 'hash' will be settled with the d——d rebels, and then stand by the girls! — stand by the Miss Pinckneys! and Elliots! and Rutledges! and all your bright-eyed, soft bosomed, lovely dames, look sharp! Egad! your charms shall reward our valor! like the grand Turk, we'll have regiments of our own raising! Charleston shall be our Constantinople! and our Circassia, this sweet Carolina famed for beauties! Prepare the baths, the perfumes, and spices! bring forth the violins and the rose buds! and tap the old Madeira, that our souls may all be joy!"
'Twas in this way they would rant; and then, brightened up to the pitch, they would look and grin on each other as sweetly as young foxes, who, prowling round a farm yard, had suddenly heard the cackling of the rooster pullets. The reader shall presently see the violent and bloody course of these ruffians, who did such dishonor to the glorious island they came from. But before I begin my tragedy, I beg leave, by way of prologue, to entertain him a moment with a very curious farce that was acted on a wealthy old tory, near Monk's Corner, while colonel Tarleton with the British advance, lay there.
The hero of the play was a remarkably stout, red-haired young Scotsman, named Macdonald, son of the Macdonald of famous defeat at Morris Creek Bridge, North Carolina. Soon after the defeat of his father he came and joined our troops. Led by curiosity, I could not help, one day, asking him the reason: to which he made, in substance, the following reply.
"Immediately on the misfortune of my father and his friends at the Great Bridge, I fell to thinking what could be the cause; and then it struck me that it must have been owing to their own monstrous ingratitude. "Here now," said I to myself, "is a parcel of people, meaning my poor father and his friends, who fled from the murderous swords of the English after the massacre at Culloden. Well, they came to America, with hardly any thing but their poverty and mournful looks. But among this friendly people that was enough. — Every eye that saw us, had pity; and every hand was reached out to assist. They received us in their houses as though we had been their own unfortunate brothers. They kindled high their hospitable fires for us, and spread their feasts, and bid us eat and drink and banish our sorrows, for that we were in a land of friends. And so indeed we found it; for, whenever we told of the woeful battle of Culloden, and how the English gave no quarter to our unfortunate countrymen, but butchered all they could overtake, these generous people often gave us their tears, and said, "O! that we had been there to aid with our rifles, then should many of these monsters have bit the ground." They received us into the bosoms of their peaceful forests, and gave us their lands and their beauteous daughters in marriage, and we became rich. And yet, after all, soon as the English came to America, to murder this innocent people, merely for refusing to be their slaves, then my father and friends, forgetting all that the Americans had done for them, went and joined the British, to assist them to cut the throats of their 'best friends'!
"Now," said I to myself, "if ever there was a time for God to stand up to punish ingratitude, this was the time." And God did stand up: for he enabled the Americans to defeat my father and his friends most completely. But, instead of murdering the prisoners, as the English had done at Culloden, they treated us with their usual generosity. And now these are, "the people I love and will fight for as long as I live." And so he did fight for us, and as undauntedly too as George Washington ever did.
This was young Scotch Macdonald. Now the curious trick which he played, is as follows.
Soon as he heard that colonel Tarleton was encamped at Monk's Corner, he went the next morning to a wealthy old tory of that neighborhood, and passing himself for a sergeant of Colonel Tarleton's corps, presented that officer's compliments, adding that colonel Tarleton was just come to drive the rebels out of the country, and knowing him to be a good friend of the king, begged he would send him one of his best horses for a charger, and that he should be no loser by it.
"Send him one of my finest horses!" cried the old traitor, with eyes sparkling with joy; "Yes, Mr. Sergeant, that I will, by gad! and would send him one of my finest daughters too, had he but said the word. A good friend of the king, did he call me, Mr. Sergeant? yes, God save his sacred majesty, a good friend I am indeed, and a true. And, faith! I am glad too, Mr. Sergeant, that colonel knows it. Send him a charger to drive the rebels, heh? Yes, egad will I send him one, and as proper a one too, as ever a soldier straddled. Dick! Dick! I say you Dick!"
"Here, massa, here! here Dick!"
"Oh, you plaguy dog! so I must always split my throat with bawling, before I can get you to answer heh?"
"High, massa! sure Dick always answer when he hear massa hallo!"
"You do, you villain, do you? — Well then, run! jump! fly, you rascal, fly to the stable, and bring me out Selim, my young Selim! do you hear? you villain, do you hear?"
"Yes, massa, be sure!"
Then turning to Macdonald, he went on: "Well, Mr. Sergeant, you have made me confounded glad this morning, you may depend. And now suppose you take a glass of peach; of good old peach, Mr. Sergeant? do you think it would do you any harm?"
"Why, they say it is good of a rainy morning, sir," replied Macdonald.
"O yes, famous of a rainy morning, Mr. Sergeant! a mighty antifogmatic. It prevents you the ague, Mr. Sergeant; and clears a man's throat of the cobwebs, sir."
"God bless your honor!" said Macdonald, as he turned off a bumper of the high-beaded cordial.
But scarcely had he smacked his lips, before Dick paraded Selim; a proud, full-blooded, stately steed, that stepped as though he disdained the earth he walked upon.
Here the old fellow brightening up, broke out again: "Aye! there, Mr. Sergeant, there is a horse for you! isn't he, my boy?"
"Faith, a noble animal, sir," replied Macdonald.
"Yes, egad! a noble animal indeed! — a charger for a king, Mr. Sergeant! — Well, my compliments to colonel Tarleton: tell him I've sent him a horse, my young Selim, my grand Turk, do you hear, my son of thunder? And say to the colonel that I don't grudge him neither, for egad! he's too noble for me, Mr. Sergeant. I've no work that's fit for him, sir; no! damme, sir, if there's any work in all this country that's good enough for him, but just that which he is now going on; the driving the d——d rebels out of the land."
And in order to send Selim off in high style, he ordered Dick to bring down his elegant new saddle and holsters, with his silver-mounted pistols. Then giving Macdonald a hot breakfast, and lending him his great coat, as it was raining, he let him go, with a promise that he would come next morning and see how colonel Tarleton liked young Selim.
Accordingly next morning he waited on colonel Tarleton, and told his name, with the smiling countenance of one who expected to be eaten up with fondness. But alas! to his infinite mortification, Tarleton heard his name without the least change of feature.
After recovering a little from his embarrassment, he asked colonel Tarleton how he liked his charger.
"Charger, sir!" replied Tarleton.
"Yes, sir, the elegant horse I sent you yesterday."
"The elegant horse you sent me, sir!"
"Yes, sir, and by your sergeant, sir, as he called himself."
"An elegant horse! and by my sergeant! Why really, sir, I-I-I don't understand all this!"
The looks and voice of colonel Tarleton too sadly convinced the old traitor that he had been 'bit'; and that young Selim was gone! then trembling and pale, cried out, "Why, my dear good sir, did you not send a sergeant yesterday with your compliments to me, and a request that I would send you my very best horse for a charger, which I did?"
"No, sir, never!" replied Tarleton: "I never sent a sergeant on any such errand. Nor till this moment did I ever know that there existed on earth such a being as you."
To have been outwitted in this manner by a rebel sergeant — to have lost his peach brandy — his hot breakfast — his great coat — his new saddle — his silver mounted pistols — and worse than all, his darling horse, his young, full-blooded, bounding Selim — all these keen reflections, like so many forked lightnings, falling at once on the train and tinder of his passions, blew them up to such a diabolical rage that the old sinner had like to have been suffocated on the spot. He turned black in the face; he shook throughout; and as soon as he could recover breath and power of speech, he broke out into a torrent of curses, enough to raise the hair on any Christian man's head.
Nor was colonel Tarleton much behind him, when he came to learn what a noble horse had slipped through his hands. And a noble horse he was indeed! Full sixteen hands high; the eye of a hawk, the spirit of the king eagle; a chest like a lion; swifter than a roebuck, and strong as a buffalo.
I asked Macdonald, how he could reconcile it to himself to take the old poltroon's horse in that way?
"Why, sir," replied he, "as to that matter, people will think differently; but for my part I hold that all is fair in war: and, besides, sir, if I had not taken him colonel Tarleton, no doubt, would have got him. And then, with such a swift strong charger as this, he might do us as much harm as I hope to do to them."
And he did do them harm with a vengeance; for he had no more sense of fear than a hungry tiger. And, as to his strength, it was such, that with one of Potter's blades he would make no more to drive through cap and skull of a British dragoon, than a boy would, with a case-knife, to chip off the head of a carrot. And then, he always kept Selim up so lustily to the top of his metal. He was so fond of him, that I verily believe he would at any time have sold the shirt off his back to get corn for him. And truly Selim was not much his debtor; for, at the first flash and glimpse of a red coat, he would paw and champ his iron bit with rage; and the moment he heard the word "go", off he was among them like a thunderbolt.
And to see how Macdonald would charge, you would swear the fear of death was never before his eyes. Whether it was one or ten against him, it made no odds to this gallant Scotsman. He never stopped to count noses, but would dash in upon the thickest of them, and fall to hewing and cutting down like a very fury incarnate.
Poor Macdonald! the arm of his strength is now in dust; and his large red cheeks have, long ago been food for worms: but never shall I forget when first I saw him fight. 'Twas in the days when the British held Georgetown; and Marion had said to me, "Go and reconnoitre." I took only Macdonald with me. Before day we reached our place of concealment, a thick clump of pines near the road, and in full view of the enemy's lines. Soon as the bonny grey-eyed morning began to peep, we heard the town all alive, as it were, with drums and fifes; and about sunrise, beheld five dragoons turn out, and with prancing steeds dash up the road towards us. I turned my eye on Macdonald, and saw his face all kindled up with the joy of battle. It was like that terrible joy which flashes from the eyes of an ambushed lion, when he beholds the coming forth of the buffaloes towards his gloomy cave. "Zounds, Macdonald," said I, "here's an odds against us, five to two." "By my soul now captain," he replied, "and let 'em come on. Three are welcome to the sword of Macdonald."
Soon as they were come fairly opposite to us, we gave them a blast from our bugles, and with drawn sabres broke in upon them like a tornado.
Their panic was complete; two we stopped, overthrown and weltering in the road. The remaining three wheeled about, and taking to their heels, went off as if old Nick had been bringing up the rear. Then you might have heard the roar, and seen the dust, which dragoons can raise, when, with whip and spur and wildly rolling eyes, they bend forward from the pursuit of death. My charger being but a heavy brute, was soon distanced. But they could not distance the swift-footed Selim. Rapid as the deadly blast of the desert, he pursued their dusty course, still gathering upon them at every jump. And before they could reach the town, though so near, he brought his furious rider alongside of two of them, whom he cut down. One hundred yards further, and the third also would have been slain; for Macdonald, with his crimson claymore, was within a few steps of him, when the guns of the fort compelled him to retire. However, though quickly pursued by the enemy, he had the address to bring off an elegant horse of one of the dragoons whom he had killed.
The abomination and desolation set up in South Carolina — the author, with sorrowful heart, quits his native land, and flies to the north in quest of warlike friends — fortunate rencontre with his gallant friend colonel Marion — curious adventures.
After the capture of Charleston, with all our troops, the British, as aforesaid, began to spread themselves over the country. Then was exhibited a spectacle, which for sadness and alarm, ought never to be forgotten by the people of America. I mean how easy a thing it is for a small body of soldiers to overrun a populous and powerful country. The British did not, after Sir Henry Clinton's return to New York, exceed THREE THOUSAND MEN; and South Carolina alone, at the lowest computation, must have contained FIFTY THOUSAND! and yet this host of poor honest men were made to tremble before that handful of ruffians, as a flock of sheep before the wolf, or a household of little children before a dark frowning pedagogue. The reason is immensely plain. The British were all embodied and firm as a rock of granite; the Carolinians were scattered over the country loose as a rope of sand: the British all well armed and disciplined, moved in dreadful harmony, giving their fire like a volcano; the Carolinians, with no other than birding pieces, and strangers to the art of war, were comparatively feeble, as a forest of glow-worms: the British, though but units in number, were so artfully arranged that they told for myriads; while, for lack of unity, the Carolinians, though numerous as myriads, passed only for ciphers. In short, the British were a handful of hawks; the poor Carolinians a swarm of rice-birds, and rather than be plucked to the pin feather, or picked to the bone, they and their little ones, they were fain to flatter those furious falcons, and oft times to chirp and sing when they were much in the humor to hate and curse.
Oh! blind indeed, and doubly blind is that people, and well worthy of iron yokes, who, enjoying all the sweets of liberty, in a land of milk and honey, can expose to foreign Philistines, that blessed Canaan, unguarded by Military science. Surely those who thus throw "their pearl before swine", richly deserve that the beast should turn again and trample THEM, and their treasures too, into the mire. Yes, and had it not been for a better watch than our own, at this day, like the wretched Irish, we should have been trampled into the mire of slavery; groaning under heavy burdens to enrich our task-masters; and doomed on every fruitless attempt at freedom, to fatten the buzzards with our gibbeted carcasses.
For lack of this habitual military preparation on our part, in a few days after the fall of Charleston, Col. Tarleton, with only one hundred and fifty horse, galloped up to Georgetown, through the most populous part of the state, with as much hauteur as an overseer and his boys would gallop through a negro plantation! To me this was the signal for clearing out. Accordingly, though still in much pain from the rheumatism, I mounted my horse, and with sword and pistol by my side, set out for the northward, in quest of friendly powers to aid our fallen cause. In passing through Georgetown, I saw a distant group of people, to whom I rode up, and with great civility, as I thought, asked the news. To which a young fellow very scornfully replied, that "Colonel Tarleton was coming, and that the country, thank God, would soon be cleared of the continental colonels."
I was within an ace of drawing a pistol and shooting the young slave dead upon the spot. But God was pleased to give me patience to bear up under that heavy cross; for which I have since very heartily thanked him a thousand times and more. And indeed, on thinking over the matter, it has often struck me, that the man who could speak in that way to one who had on, as he saw, the American uniform, must be a savage, and therefore not an object of anger, but of pity. But though my anger was soon over, nothing could cure the melancholy into which this affair threw me. To see my native country thus prostrate under foreign usurpers, the generality quite disheartened, and the few, who dared to take her part, thus publicly insulted, was a shock I was not prepared for, and which, therefore, sunk my spirits to the lowest ebb of despondence. Such was the frame of mind wherein I left my native state, and set out, sick and alone, for the northward, with scarce a hope of ever seeing better days. About the middle of the second day, as I beat my solitary road, slowly winding through the silent, gloomy woods of North Carolina, I discovered, just before me, a stranger and his servant. Instantly my heart sprang afresh for the pleasures of society, and quickening my pace, I soon overtook the gentleman, when lo! who should it be but the man first of all in my wishes, though the last in my expectations; who, I say, should it be but Marion! Our mutual surprise was great. "Good heavens!" we both exclaimed in the same moment, "Is that colonel Marion?" "Is that Horry?" After the first transports of that joy, which those who have been long absent from dear friends, can better conceive than I describe, we began to inquire into each other's destinations, which was found to be the same; both flying to the north for troops to fight the British. We had not rode far when Marion, after looking up to the sun, who was now past his half-way house, came suddenly to a halt, and said, "Well, come Horry, I feel both peckish and weary, and here is a fine shade, so let us go down and rest, and refresh ourselves a while."
Whereupon I dismounted; and with the help of his servant, for his ankle was yet very crazy, got him down too. Then, sitting side by side, on the trunk of a fallen pine, we talked over the mournful state of our country; and came at last, as we had always done, to this solemn conclusion, that we would stand by her like true children, and either conquer or die with her.
After this, a piece of dried beef was paraded, from Marion's saddle-bags, with a loaf of Indian bread and a bottle of brandy. The wealthy reader may smile at this bill of fare; but to me it was a feast indeed. For joy, like a cordial, had so raised my spirits, and reinvigorated my system, that I fed like a thresher.
I shall never forget an expression which Marion let fall during our repast, and which, as things have turned out, clearly shows what an intimate acquaintance he had with human nature. I happened to say that I was afraid "our happy days were all gone."
"Pshaw, Horry," he replied, "don't give way to such idle fears. Our happy days are not all gone. On the contrary, the victory is still sure. The enemy, it is true, have all the trumps in their hands, and if they had but the spirit to play a generous game, would certainly ruin us. But they have no idea of that game; but will treat the people cruelly. And that one thing will ruin them, and save America."
"I pray God," said I, "it may be so."
"Well, don't be afraid," replied he, "you will assuredly see it."
Having despatched our simple dinner, we mounted again and pursued our journey, but with feelings so different from what I had before this meeting, as made me more sensible than ever what a divine thing friendship is. And well indeed it was for us that our hearts were so rich in friendship, for our pockets were as bare of gold and silver as if there were no such metals on earth. And but for carrying a knife, or a horse-fleam, or a gun-flint, we had no more use for a pocket than a Highlander has for a knee-buckle. As to hard money, we had not seen a dollar for years; and of old continental, bad as it was, we had received but little, and that little was gone away like a flash; as the reader may well suppose, when he comes to learn, that a bottle of rum would sweep fifty dollars.
And so here were two continental colonels of us, just started on a journey of several hundred miles, without a cent in pocket! But though poor in gold, we were rich in faith. Burning patriots ourselves, we had counted on it as a certainty, that every body we met, out of reach of the British, were as fiery as we, and that the first sight of our uniforms would command smiling countenances, and hot suppers, and downy beds, and mint slings; and in short, everything that our hearts could wish. But, alas and alack the mistake! For instead of being smiled on every where along the road as the champions of liberty, we were often grinned at as if we had been horse thieves. In place of being hailed with benedictions, we were frequently in danger from the brick bats; and in lieu of hot dinners and suppers, we were actually on the point of starving, both we and our horses! For in consequence of candidly telling the publicans that, "we had nothing to pay," they as candidly declared, "they had nothing to give," and that "those that had no money had no business to travel." At length we came to the resolution to say nothing about our poverty, but, after getting such things as we wanted, to give our 'due bills'. In this we felt ourselves perfectly warranted; for we had, both of us, thank God, very sufficient estates; and besides, turning out, as we did, to fight for our country, we thought we had, even by sacred precept, a very fair claim on that country for a little food.
I remember, one evening, after dark, we reached a tavern, the owner of which at first seemed very fond of accommodating us. But as soon as a lighted wood torch had given him a glimpse of our regimentals, the rogue began to hem and ha, to tell us of a 'mighty fine tavern' about five miles further on.
We begged him to recollect that it was night, and also very rainy, and as dark as pitch.
"Oh!" quoth he, "the road is mighty plain; you can't miss your way."
"But consider, sir, we are strangers."
"Oh! I never liked strangers in all my life."
"But, sir, we are your countrymen, American officers, going to the north for men to fight your battles."
"Oh! I wants nobody to fight my battles; king George is good enough for me."
"But, sir, we have travelled all day long without a mouthful for ourselves or horses."
To this also the brute was preparing some fit answer, when his wife, who appeared to be a very genteel woman, with a couple of charming girls, her daughters, ran out and declared that "take us in he could, and should, that he should; and that he might as well consent at first, for they would not be said nay."
Even against all this, he stood out for some time; till at length his wife reminded him, that though the British were carrying every thing before them in South Carolina, yet that Washington was still in the field, and the issue of the war unknown; and that at any rate it was good to have a friend at court.
On this he came to a pause; and at length reluctantly drawled out, "Well — I suppose — you must — come — in."
I have related this story, partly to show what a savage man would be without that softening, polishing friend, a good wife.
Observing that we were wet and cold, this amiable woman and her daughters soon had kindled up for us a fine sparkling fire, to which their own sweetly smiling looks gave tenfold cheerfulness and comfort. And while the husband went poking about the house, silent and surly as an ill-natured slave, the ladies displayed towards us the most endearing attentions. The mother brought out from her closet a bottle of nice family cordial, to warm and cheer us; while the girls presented basins of water and towels, that we might wash and refresh ourselves after our fatigue. And all these seasonable hospitalities they did, not with that ungracious silence and reserve, which so often depress the traveller's spirits, but with the charming alacrity of daughters or sisters, so sweetening every thing with smiles and sprightly chat as almost made us feel ourselves at home.
As with deep struck thought, I compared our present happy condition with that a few minutes before, benighted, wet and weary, I could not help exclaiming, "O my God! what pity it is that among so many labors which poor mortals take under the sun, they do not labor more for that which alone deserves their care. I mean that LOVE, which at once diffuses and enjoys all the happiness both of earth and heaven."
At supper, the poor creature of a husband strove very hard to draw Marion into a dispute, about what he was pleased to call our "REBELLION". I expected to have heard him lashed very severely for such brutality; for few men ever excelled Marion in the 'retort abrupt'. But every time the subject was introduced, he contrived very handsomely to waive it, by some pretty turn to the ladies, which happily relieved their terrors, and gave a fresh spring to general and sprightly conversation.
As our excellent hostess and her fair daughters were about to retire, we bade them good night, and also adieu, telling them that we meant to ride very early in the morning. To this they stoutly objected, urging that, from our fatigue and fasting, we ought to pass a day or two with them, and refresh ourselves. But if we could not do this, we must at any rate stay and give them the pleasure of our company at breakfast.
When we retired to our chamber, I asked Marion why he had not given that brute, our landlord, a proper set down.
"I am surprised at you, Horry," he replied; "when you see that your fellow man is wretched, can't you give him quarter? You must have observed, ever since we darkened his door, that with spleen and toryism, this poor gentleman is in the condition of him in the parable, who was possessed of seven devils. Since we have not the power to cast them out, let us not torment him before his time. Besides, this excellent woman his wife; these charming girls his daughters. They love him, no doubt, and therefore, to us, at least, he ought to be sacred, because surrounded by their affections."
The next morning while breakfast was preparing, the churl renewed his hostilities, by telling us, with a malignant pleasure in his face, that he and his neighbors were making ready to go to South Carolina for negroes.
"For negroes!" replied Marion; "pray sir, what do you mean by that?"
"Why, sir," returned he, "South Carolina is now all one as conquered by the British, and why may we not go and pick up what negroes we can? They would help me in my corn-field yonder."
Marion asked him whether, if he were to find HIS negroes, he would think it right to take them?
"To be sure I would," answered he. "You great men who choose to fight against your king, are all now running away. And why may I not go and catch your negroes as well as any body else?"
"My God!" replied Marion, with a deep sigh, "what will this world come to?" and turned the conversation.
Soon as breakfast was over, we took leave of this most unequally yoked couple and their lovely daughters, and continued our journey. We had not got far from the house when Marion's servant rode up, and, with a very smirking face, told his master that he believed the gentlewoman where we stayed last night must be a monstrous fine lady! Marion asked him why he thought so. "Why, sir," replied he, "she not only made me almost burst myself with eating and drinking, and all of the very best, but she has gone and filled my portmanteau too, filled it up chock full, sir! A fine ham of bacon, sir, and a pair of roasted fowls, with two bottles of brandy, and a matter of a peck of biscuit."
"God bless the dear lady!" we both exclaimed at the same moment. And I trust God did bless her. For indeed to us she was a kind angel, who not only refreshed our bodies, but still more, feasted our souls.
And though eight and twenty long years have rolled away since that time, I can still see that angel smile which brightened on her face towards us, and the memory of which springs a joy in my heart beyond what the memory of his money bags ever gave to the miser.
On the evening of the same day that we left this charming family, (I mean the FAIRER PART of it) we reached the house of colonel Thatcher, one of the noblest whigs in North Carolina. His eyes seemed as though they would never tire in gazing on our regimentals. We soon gave him the history of our travels through his native state, and of the very uncivil manner in which his countrymen had treated us. He smiled, and bid us be thankful, for that it was entirely of God's mercy that we had come off so well. "Those people," continued he, "are mere Hottentots; a set of unenlightened miserable tories, who know nothing of the grounds of the war; nothing of the rights and blessings we are contending for; nor of the corruptions and cruelties of the British ministry; and are therefore just as ready to fall into their destructive jaws, as young cat-birds are to run into the mouth of a rattle-snake."
Glorious news — a brave army of continentals coming up — Marion and the author hasten to meet them at Roanoke — fortunately get introduced to the baron de Kalb — polite reception by that amiable officer — curious and interesting conversation.
After spending two days of very welcome repose with the elegant colonel Thatcher, we took leave and set out for Hillsborough, where we met general Huger and colonel W. White, of the horse, who told us the glorious news, that "Washington had sent on a gallant detachment of continentals, who were now in full march to aid South Carolina."
Our hearts leaped for joy at the news. So great was our impatience to see what our hearts had so long and so fondly dwelt on, an army of friends, that we could not wait until they came up, but hurried off instantly to meet them at Roanoke, where it was said they were crossing. On reaching the river, we found that they had all got over, and had just formed their line of march. Oh! how lovely is the sight of friends in the day of our danger! We have had many military corps, but none had ever interested us like this. In shining regimentals and glittering arms, they moved before the eye of the glowing fancy like a host of heroes.
Thrice happy for man, that a veil, dark as the grave, is thrown over future events! For how could we, who had seen one fine army butchered at Savannah, and another captured at Charleston, have borne up under the dreadful prospect of having this gallant armament also destroyed in a few days!
Soon as our first paroxysm of joy had a little subsided, we moved toward head quarters, where we had the good fortune to fall in with our old friend Col. Semp, who appeared overjoyed to see us, and immediately offered to introduce us to the general. His excellency Horatio Gates was the commander in chief, but as he had not yet arrived, the command rested on that brave old German general, the baron de Kalb.
It was to this officer that colonel Semp introduced us, and, as was usual with him, in very flattering terms; styling us "continental colonels, and two of the wealthiest and most distinguished patriots of South Carolina!"
I shall never forget what I felt when introduced to this gentleman. He appeared to be rather elderly. But though the snow of winter was on his locks, his cheeks were still reddened over with the bloom of spring. His person was large and manly, above the common size, with great nerve and activity; while his fine blue eyes expressed the mild radiance of intelligence and goodness.
He received us very politely, saying he was glad to see us, "especially as we were the first Carolinians that he had seen; which had not a little surprised him."
Observing, I suppose, that we labored under rather too much of our national weakness, I mean modesty, he kindly redoubled his attentions to us, and soon succeeded in curing us of our reserve.
"I thought," said he, "that British tyranny would have sent great numbers of the South Carolinians to join our arms. But, so far from it, they are all, as we have been told, running to take British protections. Surely they are not tired already of fighting for liberty."
We told him the reason was very plain to us, who were inhabitants of that country, and knew very well the state of things there.
"Aye," replied he, "well, what can the reason be?"
"Why, sir," answered Marion, "the people of Carolina form but two classes, the rich and the poor. The poor are generally very poor, because, not being necessary to the rich, who have slaves to do all their work, they get no employment from them. Being thus unsupported by the rich, they continue poor and low spirited. They seldom get money; and indeed, what little they do get, is laid out in brandy to raise their spirits, and not on books and newspapers to get information. Hence they know nothing of the comparative blessings of their own country, nor of the great dangers which threaten it, and therefore care nothing about it. As to the other class, the rich, they are generally very rich, and consequently afraid to stir, unless a fair chance offer, lest the British should burn their houses and furniture, and carry off their negroes and stock. But permit me to assure you, sir, that though thus kept under by fear, they still mortally hate the British, and will, I am confident, the moment they see an army of friends at their door, fly to their standard, like a generous pack to the sound of the horn that calls them to the chase of a hated wolf."
The baron de Kalb smiled, and said he hoped it would be found so.
"No doubt of it at all sir," replied Marion.
The baron then invited us to dine with him, but added, smiling, that he hoped we had good military stomachs that could relish and digest plain fare, which was all he could promise us, and perhaps hardly enough of that.
On sitting down to table, we found that his prediction about the bill of fare, was most unwelcomely true. Our dinner was just half a side of a miserably poor hog, as miserably cooked; and in such small quantity, that before we were done there was nothing of it left but a rasher, for good manners' sake. And as to bread, there was not even a hoe-cake! It is true, that, by way of substitute, we had a trencher or two of sweet potatoes paraded. Our drink was admirably suited to the dinner; apple brandy with river water.
God forbid that I should be unmindful of his favors! For well do I know that the least of them is much better than the best of us deserve. On the contrary, I mention it rather as a compliment to his heavenly bounty, which is wont to spread our tables with so many dainties, as to cause even roast pigs and sweet potatoes to pass for a sorry meal.
Soon as dinner was over, all of us who could parade a cigar or a pipe, began to comfort our olfactories with a puff, not forgetting our brandy the while, so that by the time we had got well entrenched in clouds of fragrant kite-foot, we were in admirable cue for a dish of chat. De Kalb led the way; and, as nearly as I can recollect, in the following words.
"Colonel Marion," said he, pressing the tobacco in his pipe at the same time, "can you answer me ONE question?"
"Most gladly, general, and a THOUSAND if I can!"
"Thank you, colonel, but ONE will do."
"Be pleased then, sir, to say on."
"Well, colonel, can you tell me how old I am?"
"That's a tough question, general."
"TOUGH, colonel! pray how do you make that out?"
"Why, sir, there is a strange January and May sort of contrast between your locks and your looks that quite confuses me. By your locks you seem to be in the winter, by your looks in the summer of your days."
"Well but, colonel, striking the balance between the two, whereabouts do you take me to be?"
"Why, sir, in the spring and prime of life; about forty."
"Good heavens, forty!"
"Yes, sir, that's the mark; there or thereabouts."
"What! no more?"
"No, sir, not a day more; not an hour."
"Yes, sir, upon honor; upon a soldier's honor."
"Ha! — ha! — ha! — Well, colonel, I would not for a thousand guineas that your riflemen shot as wide off the mark as you guess. The British would not dread them as they do. Forty years old, indeed! why what will you say, colonel, when I tell you that I have been two and forty years a soldier."
Here we all exclaimed, "Impossible, general! impossible."
"I ask your pardon, gentlemen," replied he, "it is not at all impossible, but very certain. Very certain that I have been two and forty years a soldier in the service of the king of France!"
"O wonderful! two and forty years! Well then, at that rate, and pray how old, general, may you take yourself to be?"
"Why, gentlemen," replied he, "man and boy, I am now about sixty-three."
"Good heaven! sixty-three! and yet such bloom, such flesh and blood!"
"If you are so surprised, gentlemen, at my looks at sixty-three, what would you have thought had you seen my father at eighty-seven."
"Your father, general! he cannot be alive yet, sure."
"Alive! yes, thank God, and alive like to be, I hope, for many a good year to come yet. Now, gentlemen, let me tell you a little story of my father. The very Christmas before I sailed for America, I went to see him. It was three hundred miles, at least, from Paris. On arriving at the house I found my dear old mother at her wheel, in her eighty-third year, mind gentlemen!! spinning very gaily, while one of her great-granddaughters carded the wool and sung a hymn for her. Soon as the first transport of meeting was over, I eagerly asked for my father. 'Do not be uneasy, my son,' said she, 'your father is only gone to the woods with his three little great-grandchildren, to cut some fuel for the fire, and they will all be here presently, I'll be bound!' And so it proved; for in a very short time I heard them coming along. My father was the foremost, with his axe under his arm, and a stout billet on his shoulder; and the children, each with his little load, staggering along, and prattling to my father with all their might. Be assured, gentlemen, that this was a most delicious moment to me. Thus after a long absence, to meet a beloved father, not only alive, but in health and dear domestic happiness above the lot of kings: also to see the two extremes of human life, youth and age, thus sweetly meeting and mingling in that cordial love, which turns the cottage into a paradise."
In telling this little story of his aged father and his young relatives, the general's fine countenance caught an animation which perfectly charmed us all.
The eyes of Marion sparkled with pleasure. "General," said he, "the picture which you have given us of your father, and his little great-grandchildren, though short, is extremely interesting and delightful. It confirms me in an opinion which I have long entertained, which is, that there is more happiness in low life than in high life; in a cottage than in a castle. Pray give us, general, your opinion of that matter."
"Why," replied De Kalb, "this opinion of yours, colonel, is not a novel one by any means. It was the opinion of Rousseau, Fenelon, and of many other great men, and elegant writers. But notwithstanding such high authority, I must still beg leave to be a dissenter. I have seen so many people happy and also unhappy, both in cottages and castles, that I cannot but conclude, that happiness does not belong, peculiarly, to either condition, but depends on something very different from, and infinitely superior to both."
We eagerly asked what he alluded to.
"Why, gentlemen," replied he, "since you have been so polite as to ask my opinion, I will as frankly give it, though I am afraid it will seem very odd, especially coming from a soldier. However, be that as it may, my opinion you have asked, and my opinion you shall have; which is, that religion is the only thing to make a man happy in cottages or courts."
The young officers began to stare.
Gathering from their looks, that some of the company did not relish this kind of philosophy, he quickly thus resumed his speech.
"Pardon! gentlemen, I beg pardon! I must not be misunderstood. By 'religion', I don't mean 'priest-craft'. I don't mean that superstitious grimace; that rolling up of white eyes, and spreading of sanctified palms; with 'disfigured faces and long prayers,' and all the rest of that holy trumpery, which, so far from making people cheerful, tends but to throw them into the dumps. But I mean, by 'religion', that divine effort of the soul, which rises and embraces the great author of its being with filial ardor, and walks and converses with him, as a dutiful child with his revered father. Now gentlemen, I would ask, all prejudice apart, what is there can so exalt the mind and gladden the heart, as this high friendship with heaven, and those immortal hopes that spring from religion?"
Here one of the company, half blushing, as palpably convicted by the truth of the general's argument smartly called out — "Well but, general, don't you think we can do pretty well here in camp, without religion?"
"What!" replied De Kalb, "would you give it all up to the priests?"
"Yes, to be sure I would," said the young officer, "for I am for every man's following his own trade, general. They are priests, and we are soldiers. So let them do all the praying, and we will do all the fighting."
"Why, as to the fighting part," rejoined De Kalb, "I have no objection to doing all that for the priests, especially as their profession does not allow them to fight for themselves. But as to giving them up all the devotion, I confess I am not so liberal. No! no! gentlemen, charity begins at home; and I am not for parting with pleasure so easily."
"PLEASURE!" replied the young officer with a sneer.
"Yes, sir, PLEASURE," returned De Kalb. "According to my creed, sir, piety and pleasure are synonymous terms; and I should just as soon think of living physically, without bread, as of living pleasantly, without religion. For what is religion, as I said before, but HABITUAL FRIENDSHIP WITH GOD? And what can the heart conceive so delightful? Or what can so gratify it in all its best and strongest desires. For example, gentlemen, we are all fond of honor. I, for my part, am fond of the friendship of the king of France. You glory in the friendship of the great Washington. Then what must be the glory of him who is in friendship with God? Again, gentlemen, we are all born to love, to admire, to adore. If a man have no love, he is gloomy. If he love a worthless object, he is mortified. But if he love a truly worthy object, his face shines, his eyes sparkle, his voice becomes sweet, and his whole air expressive of cheerfulness. And as this happy feeling must, in the nature of things, keep pace with the excellence of the object that is beloved, then what must be the cheerfulness of him who loves the greatest, best, and loveliest of all beings, whose eternal perfections and goodness can for ever make him happier than heart can ask or think?
"In a word, gentlemen, though I am a soldier, and soldiers you know are seldom enthusiasts in this way, yet I verily believe, as I said before, that a man of enlightened and fervent piety must be infinitely happier in a cottage, than an irreligious emperor in his palace."
In the height of this extraordinary conversation, an officer stepped in and announced the arrival of general Gates.
And here, as I have in this chapter given the reader what the jockies call a 'pretty long heat', I beg leave to order a halt and allow him a little time to breathe.
Gen. Gates — bon mot of British general Lee — how an army ought not to march — De Kalb prophecies — chickens counted before they are hatched, alias, Marion and the author sent by Gen. Gates to prevent the escape of Cornwallis, before he had run — the British and American armies meet — Gates and his militia-men leave De Kalb in the lurch — his gallant behavior, and glorious death.
When a poor fellow is going down hill, it is but too common, they say, for every body to give him a kick.
"Let dogs delight to bark and bite, For heaven hath made them so."
But, if I know myself aright, I can truly say, that nothing of this vile spirit suggests a syllable of what I now write of the unfortunate general Gates. On the contrary, I feel an ardent wish to speak handsomely of him; and in one view of him I can so speak. As a gentleman, few camps or courts ever produced his superior. But though a perfect Chesterfield at court, in camp he was certainly but a Paris. 'Tis true, at Saratoga he got his temples stuck round with laurels as thick as a May-day queen with gaudy flowers. And though the greater part of this was certainly the gallant workmanship of Arnold and Morgan, yet did it so hoist general Gates in the opinion of the nation, that many of his dear friends, with a prudent regard, no doubt, to their own dearer selves, had the courage to bring him forward on the military turf and run him for the generalissimoship against the great Washington. But though they were not able to prosper him in this mad attempt, yet they so far succeeded as to get him the command of the army of Carolina, where his short and calamitous career soon caused every good patriot to thank God for continuing to his servant Washington, the command of the American armies.
On his way from the northern states, general Gates passed through Fredericksburg, where he fell in with general Charles Lee, who, in his frank manner, asked him where he was going.
"Why, to take Cornwallis."
"I am afraid," quoth Lee, "you will find him a tough piece of English beef."
"Tough, sir," replied Gates; "tough! then begad I'll tender him. I'll make 'piloo' of him, sir, in three hours after I set eyes upon him."
"Aye! will you indeed?" returned Lee. "Well then send for me, and I will go and help you to eat him."
Gates smiled; and bidding him adieu, rode off. Lee bawled after him, "Take care, Gates! take care! or your northern laurels will degenerate into southern willows."
The truth is, though general Lee was extremely splenetic, other than which, such a miserable old bachelor and infidel could hardly be, yet he certainly had a knack of telling people's fortunes. By virtue of this faculty he presently discovered that general Gates was no Fabius; but on the contrary, too much inclined to the fatal rashness of his unfortunate colleague.
And so it turned out. For, from the moment he joined the army, he appeared to act like one who thought of nothing but to have it proclaimed of him in all the newspapers on the continent, that in so many days, hours, minutes, and seconds, he flew from Philadelphia to South Carolina, 'saw, fought, and conquered' Cornwallis; and flew back again with the trophies of a second British army vanquished. Instead of moving on as old De Kalb had done, with a prudent regard to the health and refreshment of the troops, he, Jehu like, drove them on without regard to either. He would not take the lower road, as De Kalb earnestly advised, through a rich and plentiful country. Oh no; that was too round about; would too long have delayed his promised glory.
Like an eagle shaking his bold pinions in the clouds of his pride, he must dash down at once upon his prey; and so, for a near cut, take us through a pine barren, sufficient to have starved a forlorn hope of caterpillars. I shall make no attempt to describe the sufferings of the army. For, admitting that I should not lack words, my reader would, I am sure, lack faith. Indeed, at this season, when the old crop was gone and the new not quite come in, what had we to expect, especially in such a miserable country, where many a family goes without dinner, unless the father can knock down a squirrel in the woods, or his pale sickly boy pick up a terrapin in the swamps? We did, indeed, sometimes fall in with a little corn; but then, the poor, skinny, sun-burnt women, with long uncombed tresses, and shrivelled breasts hanging down, would run screaming to us, with tears in their eyes, declaring that if we took away their corn, they and their children must perish. Such times I never saw, and I pray God, I may never see nor hear of again; for, to this day, the bare thought of it depresses my spirits. But perhaps I ought to think of it, and often too, that I may be the more thankful to him who never, but in that one instance, permitted me to suffer, except in thinking of it.
There was one case in particular which I shall never forget. Almost spent with fatigue and fasting, we halted one evening near the house of a man, whose plantation bespoke him a tolerably good liver. He met us with a countenance strongly marked with terror, and begged for God's sake we would not ruin him, for that he had a large family of children to maintain. We told him that we were soldiers fighting for the country, and that it would never do for us to starve. Understanding from this that we meant to forage upon him that night, he heaved a deep sigh, and turning about, went off without saying another word. I must confess I could not help feeling very sensibly for him, especially when we saw his little white-headed children, in melancholy groups, peeping at us around the corners of the house.
His young corn, which seemed to cover about fifty acres, was just in the prime, roasting ear state, and he had also a couple of beautiful orchards of peach and apple trees, loaded with young fruit. Scarcely were our tents pitched, before the whole army, foot and horse, turned in to destroy. The trees were all threshed in a trice; after which the soldiers fell, like a herd of wild boars, upon the roasting ears, and the horses upon the blades and stalks, so that by morning light there was no sign or symptom left that corn had ever grown there since the creation of the world. What became of the poor man and his children God only knows, for by sunrise we were all under marching orders again, bending for the south. I said ALL, but I only meant all that were ABLE. For numbers were knocked up every night by agues, fluxes, and other maladies, brought on by excessive fatigue and lack of food.
I once before observed how highly the baron de Kalb had been pleased to think of Marion and myself travelling so far to meet him. His liking for us grew so fast, that we had not been with him more than two days, before he appointed us his supernumerary aids. We were, of course, much in his company, and entrusted, I believe, with every thought of his bosom that related to the good of the army. He made no scruple to tell us how utterly unmilitary those proceedings were; and frequently foretold the ruin that would ensue.
"Here," said he, "we are hurrying to attack an enemy, who, if they but knew our condition, would long for nothing so much as our arrival. We, two-thirds at least, raw militia; they, all regulars. We, fatigued; they, fresh. We, feeble and faint through long fasting; they, from high keeping, as strong and fierce as game cocks or butchers' bull dogs. It does not signify, gentlemen; it is all over with us; our army is lost as sure as ever it comes into contact with the British. I have hinted these things more than once to general Gates, but he is an officer who will take no counsel but his own."
The truth is, general Gates was one of that crazy-brained quality, to whom it is a misfortune to be fortunate. The least dram of success would intoxicate and make him fool hardy. He could never bring himself to believe, as he used to say, that "lord Cornwallis would dare to look him in the face."
So confident, indeed, was he of victory, that on the morning before the fatal action, he ordered Marion and myself to hasten on to Santee river, and destroy every scow, boat or canoe, that could assist an Englishman in his flight to Charleston!
Immediately on receiving orders, we waited on the good old De Kalb to take leave; and also to assure him of our deep regret at parting with him.
"It is with equal regret, my dear sirs," said he, "that I part with you, because I feel a presentiment that we part to meet no more."
We told him we hoped better things.
"Oh no!" replied he, "it is impossible. War is a kind of game, and has its fixed rules, whereby, when we are well acquainted with them, we can pretty correctly tell how the trial will go. To-morrow, it seems, the die is to be cast, and in my judgment, without the least chance on our side. The militia will, I suppose, as usual, play the back-game, that is, get out of the scrape as fast as their legs can carry them. But that, you know, won't do for me. I am an old soldier, and cannot run: and I believe I have with me some brave fellows that will stand by me to the last. So that, when you hear of our battle, you will probably hear that your old friend De Kalb is at rest."
I do not know that I was ever more affected in my life. I looked at Marion and saw that his eyes were watery. De Kalb saw it too, and taking us by the hand, with a firm tone, and animated look, said, "No! no! gentlemen; no emotions for me but those of congratulation. I am happy. To die is the irreversible decree of him who made us. Then what joy to be able to meet his decree without dismay! This, thank God, is my case. The happiness of man is my wish, that happiness I deem inconsistent with slavery. — And to avert so great an evil from an innocent people, I will gladly meet the British to-morrow, at any odds whatever."
As he spoke this, I saw a something in his eyes which at once demonstrated the divinity of virtue and the immortality of the soul.
With sorrowful hearts we then left him, and with feelings which I shall never forget, while memory maintains her place in this my aged brain.
"Oh my God!" said Marion, as we rode off, "what a difference does education make between man and man! Enlightened by her sacred ray, see here is the native of a distant country, come to fight for our liberty and happiness, while many of our own people, for lack of education, are actually aiding the British to heap chains and curses upon themselves and children."
It was on the morning of August the 15th, 1780, that we left the army in a good position near Rugeley's mills, twelve miles from Camden, where the enemy lay. About ten o'clock that night orders were given to march to surprise the enemy, who had at the same time commenced their march, to surprise the Americans. To their mutual astonishment, the advance of the two armies met about two o'clock, and began to fire on each other. The firing, however, was soon discontinued by both parties, who appeared very willing to leave the matter to be decided by daylight.