A council of war was called: in which De Kalb advised that the army should fall back to Rugeley's mills, and there, in a good position, wait to be attacked. —
But Gates not only rejected this excellent counsel, but threw out suspicions that it originated from fear. Upon this, the brave old De Kalb called to his servant to take his horse, and leaping on the ground, placed himself at the head of his command, on foot. To this indecent expression of general Gates, he also retorted with considerable warmth, "Well, sir, a few hours perhaps will let us see who are the brave."
It should be recorded for the benefit of our officers, many of whose laurels have been blasted by the fumes of brandy, that general Gates was rather too fond of his nocturnal glass.
"I wonder where we shall dine to-morrow?" said one of his officers, as, in the dark, they sat on their sleepy horses waiting for the day.
"Dine, sir!" replied the confident Gates, "why at Camden, sir, to be sure. Begad! I would not give a pinch of snuff, sir, to be insured a beef-steak to-morrow in Camden, and lord Cornwallis at my table."
Presently day appeared; and, as the dawning light increased, the frighted militia began to discover the woods reddening over like crimson with the long extended lines of the British army, which soon, with rattling drums and thundering cannon, came rushing on to the charge. The militia, scarcely waiting to give them a distant fire, broke and fled in the utmost precipitation. Whereupon Gates clapped spurs to his horse, and pushed hard after them, as he said, "to bring the rascals back." But he took care never to bring himself back, nor indeed to stop until he had fairly reached Charlotte, eighty miles from the field of battle. I remember it was common to talk in those days, that he killed three horses in his flight.
Gates and the militia, composing two-thirds of the army, having thus shamefully taken themselves off, the brave old De Kalb, and his handful of continentals were left alone to try the fortune of the day. And never did men display a more determined valor! For though outnumbered more than two to one, they sustained the shock of the enemy's whole force, for upwards of an hour. With equal fury the ranks-sweeping cannon and muskets were employed by both sides, until the contending legions were nearly mixed. Then quitting this slower mode of slaughter, with rage-blackened faces and fiery eyeballs, they plunge forward on each other, to the swifter vengeance of the bayonet. Far and wide the woods resound with the clang of steel, while the red reeking weapons, like stings of infernal serpents, are seen piercing the bodies of the combatants. Some, on receiving the fatal stab, let drop their useless arms, and with dying fingers clasped the hostile steel that's cold in their bowels. Others, faintly crying out, "O God I am slain!" sank pale, quivering to the ground, while the vital current gushed in hissing streams from their bursted bosoms. Officers, as well as men, now mingle in the uproaring strife, and snatching the weapons of the slain, swell the horrid carnage. Glorying in his continentals, the brave De Kalb towers before them, like a pillar of fire. His burning face is like a red star, guiding their destructive course; his voice, as the horn that kindles the young pack in the chase of blood. A British grenadier, of giant size, rushes on him with a fixed bayonet. De Kalb parries the furious blow, and plunges his sword in the Briton's breast; then, seizing his falling arms, he deals death around him on the crowding foe. Loud rise the shouts of the Americans; but louder still the shouts of the more numerous enemy. The battle burns anew along all the fierce conflicting line. There, the distant Cornwallis pushes on his fresh regiments, like red clouds, bursting in thunder on the Americans; and here, condensing his diminished legions, the brave De Kalb still maintains the unequal contest. But, alas! what can valor do against equal valor, aided by such fearful odds? The sons of freedom bleed on every side. With grief their gallant leader marks the fall of his heroes; soon himself to fall. For, as with a face all inflamed in the fight, he bends forward animating his men, he receives ELEVEN WOUNDS! Fainting with loss of blood, he falls to the ground. Several brave men, Britons and Americans, were killed over him, as they furiously strove to destroy or to defend. In the midst of the clashing bayonets, his only surviving aid, Monsieur du Buyson, ran to him, and stretching his arms over the fallen hero, called out, "Save the baron de Kalb! Save the baron de Kalb!" The British officers interposed, and prevented his immediate destruction.
It has been said that lord Cornwallis was so struck with the bravery of De Kalb, that he generously superintended while his wounds were dressed, by his own surgeons. It has also been said, that he appointed him to be buried with the honors of war. British officers have been often known to do such noble deeds, but that lord Cornwallis was capable of acting so honorably, is doubtful.
De Kalb died as he had lived, the unconquered friend of liberty. For, being kindly condoled with by a British officer for his misfortune, he replied, "I thank you, sir, for your generous sympathy; but I die the death I always prayed for; the death of a soldier fighting for the rights of man."
His last moments were spent in dictating a letter to a friend concerning his continentals, of whom he said, he "had no words that could sufficiently express his love, and his admiration of their valor." He survived the action but a few hours, and was buried in the plains of Camden, near which his last battle was fought.
When the great Washington, many years afterwards, came on a visit to Camden he eagerly inquired for the grave of De Kalb. It was shown to him. After looking on it a while, with a countenance marked with thought, he breathed a deep sigh, and exclaimed — "So, there lies the brave De Kalb; the generous stranger, who came from a distant land, to fight our battles, and to water, with his blood, the tree of our liberty. Would to God he had lived to share with us its fruits!"
Congress ordered him a monument. But the friend of St. Tammany still sleeps "without his fame". I have seen the place of his rest. It was the lowest spot of the plain. No sculptured warrior mourned at his low-laid head; no cypress decked his heel. But the tall corn stood in darkening ranks around him, and seemed to shake their green leaves with joy over his narrow dwelling.
But the roar of his battle is not yet quite passed away, nor his ghastly wounds forgotten. The citizens of Camden have lately enclosed his grave, and placed on it handsome marble, with an epitaph gratefully descriptive of his VIRTUES and SERVICES, that the people of future days may, like Washington, heave the sigh when they read of "the generous stranger who came from a distant land to fight their battles, and to water, with his blood, the tree of their liberties."
Fair Camden's plains his glorious dust inhume, Where annual Ceres shades her hero's tomb.
Marion and the author very busy in destroying the rice-makers' boats on Santee — first got the news of the defeat of our army, and death of the brave De Kalb — Marion addresses his followers — their gallant reply.
Marion and myself, as yet ignorant of the fate of the army, were on the waters of the Santee, very busily executing our boat-burning orders. Not content with destroying the common scows and flats of the ferries, we went on to sweep the river of every skiff and canoe that we could lay hands on; nay, had the harmless wonkopkins been able to ferry an Englishman over the river, we should certainly have declared war and hurled our firebrands among them.
The reader may be sure we gained no good will by our zeal in this affair; for it was a serious thing to the planters: and their wrath waxed exceedingly hot against us. Among that fleet of boats and flats that perished by our firebrands or hatchets, there were two that belonged to my excellent old uncle, colonel E. Horry. The old gentleman could hardly believe his negroes, when they told him that we were destroying his boats. However, to be satisfied of the matter, he mounted his horse, and galloped down to the river to see. We had completely done for his scow, and were just giving the finishing blows to his boat as he hove in sight; whereupon, clapping whip and spur to his horse, he came on as hard as he could drive. Soon as he was within hailing distance of an ordinary speaking trumpet, he began to bawl — "Hold! hold! for God's sake hold!"
Then dashing up, with cheeks red as fire coals, and his mouth all in a lather, he roared out, "Why, what? what? what are you about here?"
"We are only trying to kidnap the British, uncle," said I.
"Kidnap the d—-l," he replied.
Then looking around, and seeing how completely we had shivered his fine new boat and scow, he ripped out again — "Well! here is a pretty spot of work! a pretty spot of work! A brand new scow and boat, that cost me, only last spring, three hundred dollars! every farthing of it! and here now all cut to smash! ruined! not worth a chew of tobacco! why! did mortal flesh ever see the like of this? Breaking up our boats! why, how are we to harvest our rice?"
"Uncle," said I, "you had better think less of harvesting your rice, and more of catching the muskrats," meaning the British.
Here, darting at me an eye of inexpressible astonishment and rage, he exclaimed — "Why, certainly the d—-l is in the young man! catch the British? Why, have you not heard that the British are carrying every thing before them; have broke up our army; cut the regulars to pieces; scattered the militia; and chased general Gates to Jericho, and to the d—-l for what I care?"
"God forbid!" said Marion.
"Nay, that is past praying for," replied my uncle, "and if you had any interest in heaven, you ought to have made it sooner. It is too late now."
"Great God!" returned Marion; "and so our army is lost!"
"Yes," continued my uncle; "lost, as sure as a gun: and that is not all; for De Kalb is killed; Sumter surprised and cut to pieces; and Charleston illuminated every night for joy."
We could neither of us utter a word.
Presently my uncle, casting a searching eye around on our men, about thirty in number, asked where our troops were.
I told him those were all the troops we had.
I thought the good old gentleman would have gone into fits. He rolled up his eyes to heaven; smacked his hands together, and bringing them by a sudden jerk to his breast, with a shrill whistle exclaimed, "Mad! — mad! — the young fellow is as mad as a March hare — Well, I'll tell you what, nephew of mine, you may go about on the river, chopping the planters' boats at this rate, but I would not be in your coat, my lad, for your jacket, though it was stiff with gold."
I asked him what he meant by that?
"Why, I mean," replied he, "that if you are not, all of you, knocked on the head in three hours, it will be a wonder."
"Aye! what makes you think so, uncle," said I.
He answered: "You know my old waiting man, Tom, don't you?"
"To be sure I do," said I; "I have known Tom ever since I was a boy, and should be confounded sorry to hear Tom prophesy any harm of me; for I have always taken him to be a very true man of his word."
"Yes, I'll warrant him," said my uncle; "for though Tom is a negro, and as black as old Nick, yet I would as soon take Tom's word as that of any white man in Carolina. Well, Tom, you know, has a wife at Mr. ——'s, as rank a tory as we have hereabouts. On coming home this morning, he shook his head and said he was mighty 'fraid you and Col. Marion were in a bad box; for, that he got it from one of the black waiters in the house, who overheard the talk, that there are THREE companies of tories now moulding their bullets, and making ready to cut you off."
I looked at Marion and saw battle in his face.
My uncle was about to invite us to the house; but Marion interrupted him by saying, "This is no time to think of visiting;" and turning to his trumpeter, ordered him to wind his horn, which was instantly done. Then placing himself at our head, he dashed off at a charging lope; with equal speed we followed and soon lost sight of my uncle Horry.
On reaching the woods, Marion ordered the troop to halt and form; when, with his usual modesty, he thus addressed us:
"Well, gentlemen, you see our situation! widely different from what it once was. Yes, once we were a happy people! Liberty shone upon our land, bright as the sun that gilds yon fields; while we and our fathers rejoiced in its lovely beams, gay as the birds that enliven our forests. But, alas! those golden days are gone, and the cloud of war now hangs dark and lowering over our heads. Our once peaceful land is now filled with uproar and death. Foreign ruffians, braving us up to our very firesides and altars, leave us no alternative but slavery or death. Two gallant armies have been marched to our assistance; but, for lack of competent commanders, both have been lost. That under general Lincoln, after having been duped and butchered at Savannah, was at last completely trapped at Charleston. And that under general Gates, after having been imprudently overmarched, is now cut up at Camden. Thus are all our hopes from the north entirely at an end; and poor Carolina is left to shift for herself. A sad shift indeed, when not one in a thousand of her own children will rise to take her part; but, on the contrary, are madly taking part with the enemy against her. And now, my countrymen, I want to know your minds. As to my own, that has long been made up. I consider my life as but a moment. But I also consider, that to fill that moment with duty, is my all. To guard my innocent country against the evils of slavery, seems now my greatest duty; and, therefore, I am determined, that while I live, she shall never be enslaved. She may come to that wretched state for what I know, but MY eyes shall never behold it. Never shall she clank her chains in my ears, and pointing to the ignominious badge, exclaim, "IT WAS YOUR COWARDICE THAT BROUGHT ME TO THIS."
In answer to this, we unanimously assured him, that those sentiments and resolutions were exactly our own: and that we were steadfastly determined to die with him, or conquer for our country.
"Well then, my brave friends," said he, "draw your swords! Now for a circle, emblematical of our eternal union! and pointing your blades to heaven, the bright throne of Him who made us free, swear you will never be slaves of Britain."
Which was all most devoutly done.
Soon as this patriotic rite was performed, we all dismounted, and taking our seats on the trunks of two fallen pines that lay conveniently parallel, we made our simple dinner of cold roots; and for our beverage drank of the lucid stream that softly murmured by.
The reader will please to keep in mind, that our troops consisted of but thirty mounted militia; chiefly gentlemen volunteers, armed with muskets and swords, but almost without powder and ball. How Marion came to be at the head of this little party, it may be amusing to the reader to hear.
Some short time before this date, 1779-80, when the war began to rage in South Carolina, a British captain by the name of Ardeisoff came up to Georgetown in an armed vessel, and filled the country with printed proclamations from lord Cornwallis, calling on the GOOD PEOPLE of South Carolina to submit and take royal protections!! Numbers of the ignorant and pusillanimous sort closed with the offer. But the nobler ones of the district, (Williamsburgh,) having no notion of selling their liberties for a 'pig in a poke', called a caucus of their own, from whom they selected captain John James, and sent him down to master captain Ardeisoff, to know what he would be at. This captain James, by birth an Irishman, had rendered himself so popular in the district, that he was made a militia captain under the royal government. But in '75, soon as he found that the ministry were determined to tax the Americans, without allowing them the common British right of representation, he bravely threw up his commission, declaring that he would never serve a TYRANT. Such was the gentleman chosen by the aforesaid liberty caucus, to go on the embassy before mentioned. In the garb of a plain planter, James presented himself before the haughty captain Ardeisoff, and politely asked "on what terms himself and friends must submit?"
"What terms, sir!" replied the angry Briton, "what terms! why, no other terms, you may be sure, than unconditional submission."
"Well but sir," answered James, very calmly, "are we not to be allowed to stay at home in peace and quiet?"
"In peace and quiet, indeed!" replied Ardeisoff, with a sarcastic grin; "a pretty story, truly! Stay at home in peace and quiet, heh? No, no, sir, you have all rebelled against your king; and if treated as you deserve, would now be dancing like dogs at the arms of the gallows. But his majesty is merciful, sir; and now that he has graciously pardoned you, he expects you will immediately take up arms and turn out in support of his cause."
"You are very candid, sir," said James; "and now I hope you will not be displeased with me for being equally plain. Permit me, then, sir, to tell you that such terms will never go down with the gentlemen whom I have the honor to represent."
"The gentlemen you have the honor to represent, you d—n-d rebel!"
Vesuvius! Aetna! and Strumbolo! what are your fires and flames, compared with those that raged in the bosom of James, when he heard himself called a d—n-d rebel!
Instantly springing up, with eyes of lightning, he snatched up his chair, and, regardless of consequences, laid the audacious Ardeisoff sprawling on the floor; then flying to his horse, he mounted and made his escape. Learning from him, at his return, what they had to understand by 'British protections', his gallant constituents came at once to the resolution to arm and fight till death, rather than hold life on such ignominious terms. Immediately the whole force of the district, about two hundred, able to bear arms, were mustered and placed under captains William M'Coltery, John M'Cawley, Henry Mowizon, and our brave captain James, who was appointed major and captain general of the whole. Feeling that distrust in themselves which is common with raw troops, and learning that the northern army was just entering South Carolina, they despatched a messenger to general Gates, to request that he would send them an officer who had seen service. Governor Rutledge, who happened at that time to be in camp, advised general Gates by all means to send Marion. Marion was accordingly sent; but with orders, as we have seen, to destroy, on his route, all the boats on the Santee river, lest lord Cornwallis should make his escape. At the time of leaving general Gates, Marion had but ten men with him; but on reaching Santee, we were joined by major John James, with about twenty gallant gentlemen volunteers, making his whole force about thirty.
A slender force, to be sure, to oppose to the tremendous powers which Marion had to encounter! But, "the Lord is king, the victory is his!" and when he pleases to give it to an oppressed people, he can make the few and feeble overcome the many and mighty.
As the brave major James may perhaps be mentioned no more in this history, I must gratify the reader by informing him, that the noble major lost nothing by his attachment to duty and the rights of man. He lived to see Cornwallis, Tarleton, and Rawdon, laid as low as the insolent Ardeisoff; and after enjoying many years of sweet repose, under the pleasant shade of peace and plenty, he sunk gently to rest. But though now fallen asleep, he still lives in his country's gratitude, and in the virtues of his son, who fills one of the highest places in the judiciary of his native state.
Carolina apparently lost — Marion almost alone keeps the field — begins to figure — surprises a strong British party at Nelson's old field — scourges the tories at Black Mingo — again smites them hip and thigh on Pedee.
The history of the American Revolution is a history of miracles, all bearing, like sunbeams, on this heavenly fiat: "America shall be free!"
Some of our chimney-corner philosophers can hardly believe, when they read of Samson making such a smash among the Philistines with the jawbone of an ass. Then how will they believe what I am going to tell them of Marion? How will they believe that, at a time when the British had completely overrun South Carolina; their headquarters at Charleston, a victorious army at Camden; strong garrisons at Georgetown and Jacksonborough, with swarms of thievish and bloody minded tories, filling up all between; and the spirits of the poor whigs so completely cowed, that they were fairly knocked under to the civil and military yoke of the British, who, I ask again, will believe, that in this desperate state of things, one little, swarthy, French-phizzed Carolinian, with only thirty of his ragged countrymen, issuing out of the swamps, should have dared to turn his horse's head towards this all conquering foe?
Well, Marion was that man. He it was, who, with his feeble force, dared to dash up at once to Nelson's ferry, on the great war path between the British armies at Charleston and Camden.
"Now, my gallant friends," said he, at sight of the road, and with a face burning for battle, "now look sharp! here are the British wagon tracks, with the sand still falling in! and here are the steps of their troops passing and repassing. We shall not long be idle here!"
And so it turned out. For scarcely had we reached our hiding place in the swamp, before in came our scouts at half speed, stating that a British guard, with a world of American prisoners, were on their march for Charleston.
"How many prisoners do you suppose there were?" said Marion.
"Near two hundred," replied the scouts.
"And what do you imagine was the number of the British guard?"
"Why, sir, we counted about ninety."
"Ninety!" said Marion with a smile; "ninety! Well, that will do. And now, gentlemen, if you will only stand by me, I've a good hope that we thirty will have those ninety by to-morrow's sunrise."
We told him to lead on, for that we were resolved to die by his side.
Soon as the dusky night came on, we went down to the ferry, and passing for a party of good loyalists, we easily got set over. The enemy, with their prisoners, having just effected the passage of the river as the sun went down, halted at the first tavern, generally called "the Blue House", where the officers ordered supper. In front of the building, was a large arbor, wherein the topers were wont to sit, and spend the jocund night away in songs and gleeful draughts of apple brandy grog. In this arbor, flushed with their late success, sat the British guard; and tickler after tickler swilling, roared it away to the tune of "Britannia strike home": till overcome with fatigue, and the opiate juice, down they sunk, deliciously beastified, to the ground.
Just as the cock had winded his last horn for day we approached the house in perfect concealment, behind a string of fence, within a few yards of it. But in spite of all our address, we could not effect a complete surprisal of them. Their sentinels took the alarm, and firing their pieces, fled into the yard. Swift as lightning we entered with them, and seizing their muskets, which were all stacked near the gate, we made prisoners of the whole party, without having been obliged to kill more than three of them.
Had Washington and his whole army been upon the survivors, they could hardly have roared out louder for quarter. After securing their arms, Marion called for their captain; but he was not to be found, high nor low, among the living or dead. However, after a hot search, he was found up the chimney! He begged very hard that we would not let his men know where he had concealed himself. Nothing could equal the mortification of the British, when they came to see what a handful of militia-men had taken them, and recovered all their prisoners.
Marion was at first in high hopes, that the American regulars whom he had so gallantly rescued, would, to a man, have joined his arms, and fought hard to avenge their late defeat. But equally to HIS surprise and their own disgrace, not one of them could be prevailed on to shoulder a musket! "Where is the use," said they, "of fighting now, when all is lost?"
This was the general impression. And indeed except these unconquerable spirits, Marion and Sumter, with a few others of the same heroic stamp, who kept the field, Carolina was no better than a British province.
In our late attack on the enemy, we had but four rounds of powder and ball; and not a single sword that deserved the name. But Marion soon remedied that defect. He bought up all the old saw blades from the mills, and gave them to the smiths, who presently manufactured for us a parcel of substantial broadswords, sufficient, as I have often seen, to kill a man at a single blow.
From our prisoners in the late action, we got completely armed; a couple of English muskets, with bayonets and cartouch-boxes, to each of us, with which we retreated into Britton's Neck.
We had not been there above twenty-four hours before news was brought us by a trusty friend, that the tories, on Pedee, were mustering, in force, under a captain Barfield. This, as we learnt afterwards, was one of the companies that my uncle's old coachman had been so troubled about. We were quickly on horseback; and after a brisk ride of forty miles, came upon their encampment, at three o'clock in the morning. Their surprise was so complete, that they did not fire a single shot! Of forty-nine men, who composed their company, we killed and took about thirty. The arms, ammunition, and horses of the whole party, fell into our hands, with which we returned to Britton's Neck, without the loss of a man.
The rumor of these two exploits soon reached the British and their friends the tories, who presently despatched three stout companies to attack us. Two of the parties were British; one of them commanded by major Weymies, of house-burning memory. The third party were altogether tories. We fled before them towards North Carolina. Supposing they had entirely scouted us, they gave over the chase, and retreated for their respective stations; the British to Georgetown, and the tories to Black Mingo. Learning this, from the swift mounted scouts whom he always kept close hanging upon their march, Marion ordered us to face about, and dog them to their encampment, which we attacked with great fury. Our fire commenced on them at but a short distance, and with great effect; but outnumbering us, at least two to one, they stood their ground and fought desperately. But losing their commander, and being hard pressed, they at length gave way, and fled in the utmost precipitation, leaving upwards of two-thirds of their number, killed and wounded, on the ground. — The surprise and destruction of the tories would have been complete, had it not been for the alarm given by our horses' feet in passing Black Mingo bridge, near which they were encamped. Marion never afterwards suffered us to cross a bridge in the night, until we had first spread our blankets on it, to prevent noise.
This third exploit of Marion rendered his name very dear to the poor whigs, but utterly abominable to the enemy, particularly the tories, who were so terrified at this last handling, that, on their retreat, they would not halt a moment at Georgetown, though twenty miles from the field of battle; but continued their flight, not thinking themselves safe, until they had got Santee river between him and them.
These three spirited charges, having cost us a great deal of rapid marching and fatigue, Marion said he would give us "a little rest". So he led us down into Waccamaw, where he knew we had some excellent friends; among whom were the Hugers and Trapiers, and Alstons; fine fellows! rich as Jews, and hearty as we could wish: indeed the wealthy captain, now colonel William Alston, was one of Marion's aids.
These great people all received us as though we had been their brothers, threw open the gates of their elegant yards for our cavalry, hurried us up their princely steps; and, notwithstanding our dirt and rags, ushered us into their grand saloons and dining rooms, where the famous mahogany sideboards were quickly covered with pitchers of old amber colored brandy, and sugar dishes of double refined, with honey, for drams and juleps. Our horses were up to the eyes in corn and sweet-scented fodder; while, as to ourselves, nothing that air, land, or water could furnish, was good enough for us. Fish, flesh, and fowl, all of the fattest and finest, and sweetly graced with the smiles of the great ladies, were spread before us, as though we had been kings: while Congress and Washington went round in sparkling bumpers, from old demijohns that had not left the garret for many a year.
This was feasting indeed! It was a feasting of the soul as well as of the sense. To have drawn the sword for liberty and dear country's sake, was, of itself, no mean reward to honest republicans; but, beside that, to be so honored and caressed, by the great ones of the land, was like throwing the zone of Venus over the waist of Minerva, or like crowning profit with pleasure, and duty with delight.
In consequence of the three fortunate blows which he had lately struck, Marion, as before observed, was getting the enviable honor to be looked up to as the rallying point of the poor whigs; insomuch, that although afraid as mice to stir themselves, yet, if they found out that the tories and British were any where forming encampments about the country, they would mount their boys and push them off to Marion to let him know. Here I must give the reader an instance on the spot.
We had just got ourselves well braced up again, by rest and high feeding, among the noble whigs of Waccamaw, when a likely young fellow at half speed drove up one morning to the house, and asked for general Marion.
Marion went to the door.
"Well, my son, what do you want with me?"
"Why, sir general," replied the youth, "daddy sent me down to let you know, as how there is to be a mighty gathering of the tories, in our parts, to-morrow night."
"Aye indeed! and pray whereabouts, my son, may your parts be?"
"Heigh, sir general! don't you know where our parts is? I thought everybody knowed where daddy lives."
"No, my son, I don't; but, I've a notion he lives somewhere on Pedee; perhaps a good way up."
"Yes, by jing, does he live a good way up! a matter of seventy miles; clean away up there, up on Little Pedee."
"Very well, my son, I thank your daddy, and you too, for letting me know it. And, I believe, I must try to meet the tories there."
"O la, sir general, try to meet 'em indeed! yes, to be sure! dear me, sirs, hearts alive, that you must, sir general! for daddy says, as how, he is quite sartin, if you'll be there to-morrow night, you may make a proper smash among the tories; for they'll be there thick and threefold. They have heard, so they say, of your doings, and are going to hold this great meeting, on purpose to come all the way down here after YOU."
"Yes, indeed are they, sir general! and you had better keep a sharp look out, I tell you now; for they have just been down to the British, there at Georgetown, and brought up a matter of two wagon loads of guns; great big English muskets! I can turn my thumb in them easy enough! And, besides them plaguy guns, they have got a tarnal nation sight of pistols! and bagonets! and swords! and saddles! and bridles! and the dear knows what else besides! so they are in a mighty good fix, you may depend, sir general."
"Well, perhaps you and I may have some of them fine things to-morrow night. What say you to it, my son?"
"By jing, I should like it proper well! But, to be sure, now, sir general, you look like a mighty small man to fight them great big tories there, on Pedee. But daddy says as how the heart is all: and he says, too, that though you are but a little man, you have a monstrous great heart."
Marion smiled, and went out among his men, to whom he related the boy's errand; and desired them to question him, so that there might be no trick in the matter. But every scruple of that sort was quickly removed; for several of our party were well acquainted with the lad's father, and knew him to be an excellent whig.
Having put our firearms in prime order for an attack, we mounted; and giving our friends three cheers, dashed off, just as the broad-faced moon arose; and by daybreak next morning, had gained a very convenient swamp, within ten miles of the grand tory rendezvous. To avoid giving alarm, we struck into the swamp, and there, man and horse, lay snug all day. About eleven o'clock, Marion sent out a couple of nimble-footed young men, to conceal themselves near the main road, and take good heed to what was going on. In the evening they returned, and brought word, that the road had been constantly alive with horsemen, tories they supposed, armed with new guns, and all moving on very gaily towards the place the lad had told us of. Soon as it was dark, we mounted, and took the track at a sweeping gallop, which, by early supper time, brought us in sight of their fires. Then leaving our horses under a small guard, we advanced quite near them, in the dark without being discovered; for so little thought had they of Marion, that they had not placed a single sentinel, but were, all hands, gathered about the fire: some cooking, some fiddling and dancing, and some playing cards, as we could hear them every now and then bawling out, "Huzza, at him again, damme! aye, that's the dandy! My trick, begad!"
Poor wretches, little did they think how near the fates were grinning around them.
Observing that they had three large fires, Marion divided our little party of sixty men into three companies, each opposite to a fire, then bidding us to take aim, with his pistol he gave the signal for a general discharge. In a moment the woods were all in a blaze, as by a flash of lightning, accompanied by a tremendous clap of thunder. Down tumbled the dead; off bolted the living; loud screamed the wounded; while far and wide, all over the woods, nothing was to be heard but the running of tories, and the snorting of wild bounding horses, snapping the saplings. Such a tragi-comedy was hardly ever seen. On running up to their fires, we found we had killed twenty-three, and badly wounded as many more; thirteen we made prisoners; poor fellows who had not been grazed by a bullet, but were so frightened that they could not budge a peg. We got eighty-four stand of arms, chiefly English muskets and bayonets, one hundred horses, with new saddles and bridles, all English too, with a good deal of ammunition and baggage. The consternation of the tories was so great that they never dreamt of carrying off anything. Even their fiddles and fiddle bows, and playing cards, were all left strewed around their fires. One of the gamblers, (it is a serious truth) though shot dead, still held the cards hard gripped in his hands. Led by curiosity to inspect this strange sight, a dead gambler, we found that the cards which he held were ace, deuce, and jack. Clubs were trumps. Holding high, low, jack, and the game, in his own hand, he seemed to be in a fair way to do well; but Marion came down upon him with a trump that spoiled his sport, and non-suited him for ever.
But the most comfortable sight of all, was the fine supper which the tories had cooked! three fat roasted pigs and six turkeys, with piles of nice journey cakes. 'Tis true, the dead bodies lay very thick round the fires: but having rode seventy miles, and eating nothing since the night before, we were too keen set to think of standing on trifles; so fell upon the poor tories' provisions, and made the heartiest supper in the world. And, to crown all, we found among the spoil, upwards of half a barrel of fine old peach brandy.
"Ah, this brandy!" said Marion, "was the worst foe these poor rogues ever had. But I'll take care it shall be no foe to us." So, after ordering half a pint to each man, he had the balance put under guard. And I must observe, by way of justice to my honored friend, that success never seemed to elate him; nor did ever he lose sight of safety in the blaze of victory. For instantly after the defeat, our guns were all loaded and our sentinels set, as if an enemy had been in force in the neighborhood.
The whigs in high spirits on account of our success — an express from Governor Rutledge — promotions — British and tories in great wrath — sketch of their treatment of the patriots.
The news of this fourth overthrow of the enemy, was soon spread far and wide among both our friends and foes; producing everywhere the liveliest emotions of joy or sorrow, according as the hearers happened to be well or ill affected towards us. The impression which it made on our honored executive, was sweeter to our thoughts than honey or the honeycomb. For on the fifth day after our last flaggellation of the tories, in came an express from governor Rutledge, with a commission of brigadier general for Marion, and a full colonel's commission for me. Having always looked up to my country as to a beloved mother, whose liberty and prosperity were inseparably connected with my own, it is no wonder that I should have been so delighted at hearing her say, by her favorite son, governor Rutledge, that, 'reposing especial trust in my courage, conduct, and attention to her interests, she had appointed me a colonel in her armies,' &c. &c.
Scarcely had I perused my commission, before Marion reached me HIS; and with a smile, desired me to read it. Soon as I came to his new title, "brigadier general", I snatched his hand and exclaimed, "Huzza! God save my friend! my noble GENERAL MARION! general! general! Aye that will do! that will do! that sounds somewhat in unison with your deserts."
"Well, but what do you think of the style," replied he, "and of the prerogative — is it not prodigiously in the pompous?"
"Not at all," said I.
"No," continued he; "why now to MY notion, it is very much in the turgid, in the Asiatic. It gives me dominions from river to river, and from the mountains to the great sea, like Tamerlane or Ghengis Khan; or like George III. 'by the grace of God, king of Great Britain, FRANCE,' &c. &c. whereas, poor George dares not set a foot there, even to pick up a periwinkle!"
"Well, but general," said I, "as the English gave France to George because they wish him to have it, so I suppose the good governor gives you this vast district for the same reason."
"Perhaps so," replied Marion.
The truth is, governor Rutledge was a most ardent lover of his country; and, therefore, almost adored such an unconquerable patriot as Marion.
Hence, when he found, that notwithstanding the many follies and failures of northern generals and armies; notwithstanding the victories, and proclamations, and threats of Cornwallis and Tarleton, Marion still stood his ground, and fought and conquered for Carolina; his whole soul was so filled with love of him, that I verily believe he would have given him "all the kingdoms of the earth and the glory thereof," had they been in his gift. Indeed what he did give him was sketched out with a prodigiously bold hand. He gave him all that territory, comprehended within a line drawn from Charleston along the sea, to Georgetown; thence westerly to Camden; and thence to Charleston again; making a domain of extent, population, and wealth, immense; but over which the excellent governor had no more power to grant military jurisdiction, than to give kingdoms in the moon; for the whole of it was in the hands of the British, and their friends the tories; so that the governor had not a foot to give Marion; nor did Marion hold a foot of it but by his own vigilance and valor; which were so extraordinary, that his enemies, with all their men, money, and malice, could never drive him out of it.
But while governor Rutledge, with all the good whigs of the state, were thus heartily rejoicing with Marion for his victories, the British and tories were as madly gnashing their teeth upon him for the same. To be struck four such severe blows, in so short a time, and all rising one over another in such cursed climax of bad to worse; to be losing, in this manner, their dear allies, with all their subsidies of arms, ammunition, and money; to have their best friends thus cooled; their worst enemies thus heated; and rank rebellion again breaking up, out of a soil where they had promised themselves nothing but the richest fruits of passive obedience: and all this by a little, ugly spawn of a Frenchman! It was too much! they could not stand it. Revenge they must and would have; that was certain: and since, with all their efforts, they could not get at Marion, the hated trunk and root of all, they were determined to burn and sweat his branches, the poor whigs, i.e. to carry the curses of fire and sword through all their families and habitations.
Now, had this savage spirit appeared among a few poor British cadets, or piney wood tories, it would not have been so lamentable. Their ignorance of those divine truths, which exalt the soul above such hellish passions, would have furnished some plea for them. But, that a British general, and that general a nobleman! a lord! with an archbishop for his brother, and hot-pressed bibles, and morocco prayer books, and all such excellent helps, to teach him that "God is love", and "mercy his delight"; that such a one, I say, should have originated the infernal warfare, of plundering, burning, and hanging the American patriots, is most HORRIBLE. And yet, if possible, more true than horrible. Yes, sure as the day of doom, when that fearful day shall come, and lord Cornwallis, stript of his "brief authority", shall stand, a trembling ghost before that equal bar: then shall the evil spirit, from the black budget of his crimes, snatch the following bloody order, and grinning an insulting smile, flash it before his lordship's terrified optics.
August 18, 1780, To lieutenant colonel Cruger, commandant at the British garrison at Ninety-Six.
I have given orders that all the inhabitants of this province, who had submitted, and who have taken a part in this revolt, shall be punished with the greatest rigour; that they shall be imprisoned, and their whole property taken from them or destroyed. I have likewise directed, that compensation should be made out of their effects, to persons who have been plundered and oppressed by them. I have ordered, in the most positive manner, that every militia-man who had borne arms with us, and had afterwards joined the enemy, should be immediately hanged. I have now sir, only to desire that you will take the most vigorous measures to extinguish the rebellion in the district which you command, and that you will obey, in the strictest manner, the directions I have given in this letter, relative to the treatment of this country.
This order of lord Cornwallis proved to South Carolina like the opening of Pandora's box. Instantly there broke forth a torrent of cruelties and crimes never before heard of in our simple forests. Lord Rawdon acted, as we shall see, a shameful part in these bloody tragedies, and so did colonel Tarleton. But the officer who figured most in executing the detestable orders of Cornwallis, was a major Weymies. This man was, by birth, a Scotsman; but, in principle and practice, a Mohawk. So totally destitute was he of that amiable sympathy which belongs to his nation, that, in sailing up Winyaw bay, and Waccamaw and Pedee rivers, he landed, and pillaged, and burnt every house he durst approach! Such was the style of his entry upon our afflicted state, and such the spirit of his doings throughout: for wherever he went, an unsparing destruction awaited upon his footsteps.
Unhappily, our country had but too many pupils that fitted exactly such a preceptor. The lazy, dram-drinking, plunder-loving tories, all gloried in major Weymies: and were ever ready, at the winding of his horn, to rush forth with him, like hungry bloodhounds, on his predatory excursions. The dogs of hell were all now completely uncoupled, and every devilish passion in man had its proper game to fly at. Here was a fine time for MALICE to feed her ancient grudges; for AVARICE to cram her maw with plunder; and REVENGE to pay off her old scores, with bloody interest.
A thievish tory, who had been publicly whipped by a whig magistrate, or had long coveted his silver tankard, or his handsome rifle, or his elegant horse, had but to point out his house to major Weymies, and say, "There lives a d——d rebel." The amiable major and his myrmidons, would surround the noble building in a trice; and after gutting it of all its rich furniture, would reduce it to ashes. It was in vain that the poor delicate mother and her children, on bended knees, with wringing hands and tear-swimming eyes implored him to pity, and not to burn their house over their heads. Such eloquence, which has often moved the breasts of savages, was all lost on major Weymies and his banditti. They no more regarded the sacred cries of angel-watched children than the Indians do the cries of the young beavers, whose houses they are breaking up.
But, oh, joy eternal! "THE LORD IS KING." His law is love, and they who sin against this law, soon or late, shall find that they have sinned against their own souls.
A planter, in his fields, accidentally turning towards his house, suddenly discovers a vast column of smoke bursting forth, and ascending in black curling volumes to heaven. "Oh my God! my house!" he exclaims, "my poor wife and children!" Then, half bereft of his senses, he sets off and runs towards his house. — Still, as he cuts the air, he groans out, "Oh, my poor wife and children!" Presently he hears their cries: he sees them at a distance with outstretched arms flying towards him. Oh, pa! pa! pa! his children tremblingly exclaim; while his wife, all pale and out of breath, falls on his bosom, and, feebly crying out, "The BRITISH! oh the British," sinks into a swoon.
Who can tell the feelings of the father and the husband! His wife convulsed in his arms! his little beggared children screaming around him! and his property all sinking to ruin, by merciless enemies! Presently his wife, after a strong fit, with a deep sigh, comes to herself; he wipes her tears; he embraces and hushes his children. By and bye, supposing the British to be gone, arm in arm the mournful group return. But ah, shocking sight! their once stately mansion which shone so beauteous on the plain, the pride and pleasure of their eyes, is now the prey of devouring flames. Their slaves have all disappeared; their stock, part is taken away, part lies bleeding in the yard, stabbed by bayonets; their elegant furniture, tables, glasses, clocks, beds, all is swallowed up. An army of passing demons could have done no worse. But while with tearful eye they are looking round on the wide-spread ruin, undermined by the fire, down comes the tall building with thundering crash to the ground. The frightened mourners start aghast from the hideous squelch, and weep afresh to see all the hopes and glories of their state thus suddenly ended in smoke and ashes.
It was in this way exactly that the British treated my brother, major Hugh Horry, as brave a soldier as ever fought in America. They laid in ashes all his dwelling houses, his barns of clean rice, and even his rice stacks! Destroyed his cattle; carried off eighty negroes, which were all he had, not leaving him one to bake him a cake. Thus, in one hour, as the wild Arabs served Job, did the British serve my poor brother, breaking him up root and branch; and, from a state of affluence, reduced him to a dunghill.
These savage examples, first set by the British, and followed by the tories, soon produced the effect which Marion had all along predicted. They filled the hearts of the sufferers with the deadliest hate of the British; and brought them, in crowds, to join his standard, with muskets in their hands, and vows of revenge eternal in their mouths.
Hence it was that nothing so pleased Marion as to hear of British cruelty to his countrymen.
"'Tis a harsh medicine," he used to say, "but it is necessary; for there is nothing else that will work them. And unless they are well worked and scoured of their mother milk, or beastling partiality to the English, they are lost. Our country is like a man who has swallowed a mortal poison. Give him an anodyne to keep him easy, and he's a dead man. But if you can only knock him about, and so put the poison in motion as to make him deadly sick at the stomach, and heave like a dog with a bone in his throat, he is safe. Cornwallis has all this time been lulling them by his proclamations, and protections, and lies. But, thank God, that time is pretty well over now; for these unfeeling monsters, these children of the devil, have let out the cloven foot, and the thing is now beginning to work as I expected. Our long deluded people are opening their eyes, and beginning to see and smell the blood and burnings of that 'Tophet', that political hell of slavery and ruin, to which the British army is now endeavoring, by murder and rapine, to reduce them."
This was truly the case: for, every day the whigs were coming into Marion's camp. Those who were too old to fight themselves, would call upon their sturdy boys to "turn out and join general Marion."
It was diverting to see how they would come staving upon their tackies; belted round with their powderhorns and shotbags, with rifles in hand, and their humble homespun streaming in the air. The finely curling smile brightened in the face of Marion; and his eye beamed that laughing joy, with which a father meets his thoughtless boy, returning dirty and beaten by blackguards, from whose dangerous company he had sought in vain a thousand times to wean him.
"Well, my son!" Marion would say, "and what good news do you bring us?"
"Why, why, why, sir general," replies the youth, half cocked with rage, and stammering for words, "as I was overlooking my father's negroes in the rice grounds, the British and tories came and took them and carried them all away; and I only am left alone to tell you."
Presently another comes and says: "As I was driving the horses and cattle down to the pasture, the British and tories fell upon them, and carried them all away; and I alone am left to tell you."
While he was yet speaking, another comes and says: "The British and tories came with fire and burnt our houses and goods, and have driven my mother and the children into the woods; and I only am left alone to tell you."
Next comes another, who says: "My father and myself were ploughing together in the field, and the British and tories came upon us and shot my father! and I only am left alone to tell you."
Another comes and tells, that "lord Rawdon is taking the whig prisoners every week, out of the jail in Camden, and hanging them up by half dozens, near the windows, like dead crows in a corn-field, to frighten the rest, and make good tories of them."
Another states, that "colonel Charles Pinckney, prisoner in Charleston, for striking a couple of insolent negroes, was cursed by the British officers as a d——d rebel, and driven with kicks and blows into the house, for daring to strike his 'Britannic Majesty's subjects'!"
Here Marion snapped his fingers for joy, and shouted, "Huzza! that's right! that's right! O my noble Britons, lay on! lay on the spaniels stoutly! they want British protections, do they? O the rogues! show them no quarter, but give it to them handsomely! break their backs like dogs! cut them over the face and eyes like cats! bang them like asses! thank ye! thank ye, Cornwallis and Rawdon! most noble lords, I thank ye! you have at last brought the wry face upon my countrymen, the cold sweat, the sardonic grin. Thank God! the potion begins to work! huzza, my sons! heave! heave! aye, there comes the bile; the atrabiliary; the black vomiting which portends death to the enemy. Now Britons, look to your ships, for Carolina will soon be too hot to hold you."
Colonel Tynes, the famous tory partisan, attempts to surprise Marion — is himself surprised and taken, with nearly all his party — the author, with thirty choice cavaliers, sent by Marion to reconnoitre — defeat of a British party of horse — anecdote of Scotch Macdonald — surprise and slaughter of the tories — captain Lewis is killed — anecdote of an extraordinary lad.
Soon after this last victory on Pedee, Marion moved down into the neighborhood of Black river; where he instantly got notice, that a large body of tories under the celebrated Col. Tynes, were making great preparations to attack him. This Tynes was a man of valor and address worthy of a better cause. In several contests with the whigs, he had handled them very roughly; and was become such a terror to the friends of liberty in that part of the world, that they were greatly alarmed on finding that he was mustering all his forces to attack Marion. We were scarcely encamped, before three expresses arrived from the whig settlements on Black river, stating colonel Tynes' movements; and advising to keep a good look out, for that he was a very artful and dangerous fellow. According to their conjectures, colonel Tynes must have had no less than one hundred and fifty men: our number did not quite reach ninety, but they were all volunteers, and exceedingly chafed and desperate in their minds, by the barbarous usage of the British and tories. Having, by this day's march of fifty miles, got within twenty miles of the enemy, who supposed that we were still on Pedee, Marion instantly resolved to attack him that night. No sooner was this made known to the troops, than the fatigues of the day appeared to be entirely forgotten. All hands fell to work, currying, rubbing and feeding their horses, like young men preparing for a ball or barbecue. Then after a hearty supper and a few hours' sleep, we all sprung upon our chargers again, and dashed off about one o'clock, to try our fortune with colonel Tynes. Just before day, we came upon the enemy, whom we found buried in sleep. The roar of our guns first broke their slumbers; and by the time the frightened wretches had got upon their legs, man and horse, we were among them hewing down. Three and thirty fell under our swords; forty-six were taken; the rest, about sixty, made their escape. Colonel Tynes himself, with upwards of one hundred horses, and all the baggage, fell into our hands.
A day or two after this victory, the general ordered me to take captain Baxter, lieutenant Postell, and sergeant Macdonald, with thirty privates, and see if I could not gain some advantage over the enemy near the lines of Georgetown. About midnight we crossed Black river; and, pushing on in great silence through the dark woods, arrived at dawn of day near the enemy's sentries, where we lay in ambush close on the road. Just after the usual hour of breakfast, a chair, with a couple of young ladies, 'squired by a brace of British officers elegantly mounted, came along at a sweeping rate from Georgetown.
They had not passed us more than fifty steps, before they stopped short. I was confoundedly afraid at first that they had, somehow or other, smelt a rat; but it turned out, as we afterwards learned, that this was only a little courting party, going into the country to dine. On getting into the gloomy woods, the girls were taken with a quaking fit for their sweethearts, lest that vile "swamp fox", as they called Marion, should come across them. Whereupon the halt aforesaid was ordered, and a consultation held; the result of which was, that the girls should go on to their friend's house, and the officers back to town for a party of dragoons. Accordingly the chair proceeded, and the officers galloped back by us, undisturbed; for we did not think it worth while to risk an alarm for the sake of a couple of officers. Presently beginning to feel very hungry, for we had travelled all night and eaten nothing, we agreed to retire to the house of a neighboring planter, who was known to be a good whig. As we entered the yard, what should we see but the identical chair that had passed us a little before! — and on stepping into the house behold the very same young ladies! They were richly dressed, and well formed, and would no doubt have appeared handsome, but for the hostile passions which glared from their eyes, and gave their whole physiognomy a fury-like expression. They asked us, with great pertness, "what business we had there? The gentleman of the house," continued they, "is not at home, and there are no provisions here for you, and to be sure, you are too much of gentlemen to think of frightening a family of poor helpless women!"
Happily I made no reply; for while these young viragoes were catechising us at this rate, I discovered with much pleasure, that the lady of the house did not utter a word, but walked the room backward and forward with a smiling countenance. Presently she went out; and showing herself at an opposite window, beckoned me to come to her; when she said, in a low voice, "Go back into the house, I'll be there directly. On my stepping in you must demand provisions; I will deny that I have any. You must then get into a violent passion, and swear you will have them, or set the house on fire. I will then throw down the keys, and you can take just what you want; for thank God, there is enough, both for you and your horses."
Such was the farce, which the whigs in those days, both ladies and gentlemen, were obliged to play, when they had any of their tory acquaintance about them. We now played it, and with the desired success; for the troughs in the yard were all presently filled with corn and fodder for our cavalry; while for ourselves the good-natured cook wenches soon served up a most welcome repast of fried bacon and eggs, with nice hearth cakes and butter and milk. "God be praised," said we; and down we sat, and made a breakfast, of which even kings, without exercise and keen appetites, can form no idea.
Just as we had got completely refreshed, and braced up again, what should we hear but the firing of our sentinels. "To horse! to horse! my brave fellows!" was the cry of one and all. Quick as thought, we were all mounted and formed, when in came our sentinels, with the British dragoons hard after them, smack up to the fence. Charge boys, charge! was the word. In a moment the yard was bright with the shining of our swords. The tory girls shrieked out for their sweethearts — "Oh the British! the British! murder! murder! Oh!" Then off we went, all at once, in solid column. The enemy took to their heels, and we pursued. Over the fence we bounded like stags. Down the hill went the British. Down the hill went we; helter-skelter, man and horse, we flew; roaring through the woods like the sound of distant thunder.
We were all excellently mounted; but there was no horse that could hold the way with Selim. He was the hindmost of all when the chase began; and I wondered at first what had become of Selim; but presently I saw him and Macdonald coming up on my right like a thundergust. Indeed, with his wide-spread nostrils, and long extended neck, and glaring eyeballs, he seemed as a flying dragon in chase of his prey. He soon had his master up with the enemy. I saw when Macdonald drew his claymore. The shining of his steel was terrible, as, rising on his stirrups, with high-lifted arm, he waved it three times in fiery circles over his head, as if to call up all his strength. Then, with a voice of thunder, he poured his charging shout, dreadful as the roar of the lion when, close up to his game, with hideous paws unclenched, he makes his last spring on the fat buffaloes of his chase.
Though their mortal enemy, I could not but pity the poor fugitives, for I saw that their death was at hand. One of the British officers fired a pistol at him, but without effect: before he could try another, he was cut down by Macdonald. After this, at a blow a piece, he sealed the eyes of three dragoons in lasting sleep. Two fell beneath the steel of the strong-handed Snipes; nor did my sword return bloodless to its scabbard. In short, of the whole party, consisting of twenty-five, not a man escaped, except one officer, who, in the heat of the chase and carnage, cunningly shot off, at right angles, for a swamp, which he luckily gained, and so cleared himself.
The name of this officer was Meriot, and as finished a gentleman he was too, as I ever saw. I got acquainted with him after the war, at New York. Soon as the ceremony of introduction was over, he smiled, and asked if I were not in the skirmish just related? On being answered in the affirmative, he again inquired, if I did not recollect how handsomely one of the British officers gave me the slip that day? I told him I did. "Well," continued he, "I was that officer; and of all the frights I ever had in my life, that was the most complete. Will you believe me, sir, when I assure you, that I went out that morning, with my locks of as bright an auburn as ever curled upon the forehead of youth; and by the time I had crawled out of the swamp, into Georgetown, that night, they were as gray as a badger! I was well nigh taking an oath never to forgive you, during breath, for frightening me so confoundedly. But, away with all malice! let it go to the devil, where it belongs. So come, you must go dine with me, and I'll show you a lovelier woman than either of those that rode in the chair that day."
I went with him, and was introduced to his wife, a lovely woman indeed! to whom, with great glee, he related the whole history of the chase, and his own narrow escape, and then laughed very heartily. But not so his gentle partner. For, as he told of the shrill whizzing of our swords close behind him, and of the groans of his dragoons as they fell, cut down from their horses, her face turned pale, and pensive; then, looking at him with great tenderness, she heaved a deep sigh, to think how near her husband had been to death.
Meriot looked with pleasure on the troubled countenance of his lovely wife, because he well knew the fond source of her troubles. Then, snatching up a goblet of sangree, richly mantled over with nutmeg, he presented it to her ruby lips, saying, "Come, my dear, drink, and forget the past!" Then, taking my hand with great cordiality, he exclaimed, "Well, colonel Horry, we have been foes, but thank God, we are good friends again. And now let me drink to you a sentiment of my heart, 'Here's friendship in marble, enmity in dust.'"
The behavior of this noble Englishman, has often served to deepen my abhorrence of WAR, which too frequently sets those to cutting each other's throats, who were born to be brothers.
But to return to our story. "Meriot," you'll say, "and his brother officer, brought 'their pigs to a bad market'." Yes, indeed: but not a jot worse than some of their friends came to the very day afterwards. On the morning of that day, Marion, now concealed in the swamps, near Georgetown, was pleased to order me out on a second excursion. "Take captain Snipes," said he, "with thirty men, and proceed down the Sandpit road, in quest of the enemy. The moment you discover them, whether British or tories, charge with spirit, and I'll warrant your success."
As we approached the bridge, still moving on very circumspectly, in the woods, we discovered at a short distance, a body of horsemen, perhaps a hundred, apparently in great confusion, and very anxious to form. Instantly we took the road, and clapping spurs to our horses, dashed upon them at full speed, at the same time shouting as we rushed on. The enemy broke and fled in all directions. We pursued. Then you might have seen the woods all covered with armed men; some flying, others pursuing; and with muskets, and pistols, and swords, shooting and cutting down as fast as they could.
From the unevenness of the ground, and rapidity of the charge, my men were all soon out of sight, leaving with me but a lad of fourteen, named Gwinn, who carried a musket. At that instant, a party of nine or ten men were seen advancing, whom I took for whigs, and challenged as such, asking if they were not friends? "Friends! O yes!" replied their captain, (one Lewis) "friends to be sure; friends to king George!"
Quick as thought, off went Gwinn's musket, close by my side, and down tumbled captain Lewis from his horse, with a heavy squelch, to the ground. But in the very instant of receiving his death, his musket, which was raised to kill me, took fire and shot my horse dead on the spot. Seeing my horse drop, Gwinn dismounted, and led his horse up to me in a moment.
Happily for us both, captain Snipes heard the report of our pieces, and thinking that we might be in danger, dashed on to our aid, with several of my troops whooping and huzzaing as they came on. The tory party then fired at us, but without effect, and fled leaving four of Marion's men, whom they had just taken, and beaten very barbarously with the butts of their muskets.
This was a fatal day to the tories, who must have lost more than half their number. For I had with me not only Macdonald and Snipes, but several other very strong and brave men, whose families had suffered very severely, by British and tory cruelty; and, I am afraid, they did not forget this, when their swords were hanging over the heads of the fugitives. At any rate, they took but few prisoners.
In the course of this day's fighting, there happened an affair which served to amuse us not a little on our return to our camp that night. The tories, who, from time to time had fallen into our hands, were often easing their vexation, by saying, that it was true, "Marion had proved too cunning for colonel Tynes and captain Barfield, and other British and loyal officers, whom he had attacked; but that there was still one left behind, who, they were sure, if he could come forward, would soon show us quite a different sort of play; and that was colonel Gainey, from the head waters of Pedee." We answered, that it was all very well; and that we should be glad to see colonel Gainey. Now, as God was pleased to have it, who should it be, that with one-third of his number, we had been chasing so to-day, but colonel Gainey; a stout officer-looking fellow he was too, and most nobly mounted. Macdonald made a dash at him, in full confidence of getting a gallant charger. But the good book tells us, that "the race is not always to the swift;" and owing partly to the fleetness of his horse, and partly to a most extraordinary sort of accident, colonel Gainey made his escape from our Scotsman. The chase was towards Georgetown, distant little more than two miles. Never on earth did two horses or horsemen make greater exertions. Fear impelling the one, fury urging the other. Macdonald declared, that in the chase he had passed several tories whom he could easily have cut down, but like the lion in pursuit of a favorite buffalo, he took no notice of them. His eye was fixed on colonel Gainey. Just as they turned Richmond corner, Selim had brought his master near enough to his prey to make a stroke at him with his bayonet. By a sudden jerk, it is supposed, the weapon turned; so that when Macdonald drew back the carbine, he left the bayonet up to the hilt in his back. In this way colonel Gainey rode into town, prodigiously to his own and the mortification of his friends the British and tories.
Spirit of the tories — assassination of lieutenant Marion — the murderer murdered — Marion's reflections on the death of his nephew — his manner of rewarding extraordinary courage among his men — sketch of the brave boy Gwinn.
"If mortal hands thy peace destroy, Or friendship's gifts bestow, Wilt thou to man ascribe the joy — To man impute the woe?
'Tis GOD, whose thoughts for wisest ends The human lots dispose; Around thee plants assisting friends, Or heaps chastising foes.
Not from the BOW the deaths proceed, But from the ARCHER'S skill, He lends the winged shaft its speed And gives it power to kill."
And here I must relate a tragical affair that befell us that day, and which filled us all with grief, because of our beloved general. I mean the barbarous murder of his nephew. Of all men who ever drew the sword, Marion was one of the most humane. He not only prevented all cruelty, in his own presence, but strictly forbade it in his absence. I have known him to talk for a quarter of an hour together, with one of his men, for striking over the head, a horse that had started, and to punish another for taking away from a negro, his ragged chicken. To reason then like men, one would suppose that he was the last person on whom such a cruel blow as the murder of a favorite nephew should have fallen. But thanks to God, for that most comfortable doctrine, that not even a sparrow can die until his death-warrant has been signed in heaven; and, since this young man DID die at that time, there can be no doubt but that was the RIGHT time.
The manner of his death was this. We have told the reader, that, in the course of this day's fighting, we retook from the tories four of Marion's Men, whom they had very barbarously beaten with the butts of their guns. On being asked how they came to fall into such bad company, they said, that immediately after sending me off, in the morning, Marion got information that a party of tories were encamped not far distant, on a plantation of colonel Alston's, called "The Penns". Captain M—— was despatched to surprise them; but he played his cards so badly, that, instead of surprising THEM, they surprised HIM, killed several of his men, and took the others. Among the prisoners was the general's nephew, lieutenant Gabriel Marion, of the continentals, who, happening at that time on a visit to his uncle, turned out a volunteer, and was taken. The tories murdered several of their unfortunate prisoners in cold blood, by first beating them over the head with the butts of their muskets, and then shooting them. They said that lieutenant Marion, at sight of such horrid scenes, appeared much shocked: and seeing among them a man who had often been entertained at his uncle's table, he flew to him for protection, and threw himself into his arms. The man seemed greatly distressed, and tried hard to save him; but the others roared out, that "he was one of the breed of that d——d old rebel," and that they would have his heart's blood. They, moreover, swore, with the most horrid oaths, that if the man did not instantly push young Marion from him, they would blow him through also. The unfortunate youth being then thrust from the side of his friend, was immediately destroyed.
I hope the tender mercies of God are so great as not to let our unworthiness prevent him from always doing what is exactly right and good for us. We ought not, therefore, to breathe a wish different from the will and order of Providence. But still, to us, it seems a great pity we did not get notice of captain M——'s advancing. We could have made a handsome joint attack of it, and thereby not only have prevented the horrid murders above related, but have scourged those barbarians, as they deserved. For we heard the firing, but thought it was colonel Alston's people killing beeves.
Among the very few prisoners that we made in our last action, was a mulatto fellow, who was suspected to be one of those who had murdered the general's nephew. Whether the suspicion was well or ill founded, I cannot say: but, certain it is, that the indignation excited against him, on that account, soon proved his destruction. For, as we were crossing the swamps of Black river that night, an officer rode up to him, while marching in the line of prisoners under guard, and with a pistol, shot him dead on the spot. The captain of the guard was instantly sent for, and severely reprimanded by the general, for not having killed the author of that savage deed.
It was said the officer had offered a bottle of rum to have the mulatto shot, but, finding none that would do it, he did it himself. I do not give this as a fact, but, I know it was the talk in camp, though carefully kept from the general, as everybody knew it would have given him great pain. He often said, "he truly lamented the untimely death of his nephew; and that he had been told, that this poor man was his murderer. But that, as a prisoner, his life ought to have been held most sacred; especially as the charge against him was without evidence, and, perhaps, no better than conjecture. As to my nephew," continued he, "I believe he was cruelly murdered: but living virtuously, as he did, and then dying fighting for the rights of man, he is, no doubt, happy: and this is my comfort."
The next day Marion ordered the troops under arms, and formed them into a large circle, all fronting the centre. While we were wondering what could be the meaning of this strange manoeuvre, a sergeant was seen leading into the circle an elegant horse, under saddle and bridle, with portmanteau, sword, pistols, and musket. This was the horse, furniture, and arms of captain Lewis, whom the lad Gwinn, so fortunately for me, had killed in the action three days before. Marion then called Gwinn from the ranks.
The boy approached him with his hat off.
The general, placing his hand upon his head, in the presence of the whole squadron, pronounced him "a brave little man; and there," pointing to the horse and furniture, "there is the reward of your gallantry."
"Gwinn, sir," said I, "is not a good soldier, he fired without orders."
"That's very true," replied he, "but I am sure, colonel, you are the last that ought to blame me, on that account; for if I had not fired and killed captain Lewis, exactly as I did, he would have killed you; and besides, his saying he was the friend of GEORGE THE THIRD, was enough for ME; I did not think I could fire too quick on such a man as that."
But when the sergeant, at the order of Marion, led up to him the horse, richly furnitured, as aforesaid, the confusion and grimace of the lad were truly diverting. He blushed, he chuckled, he looked around and around upon his comrades, as if at a loss how to contain himself, or what to do. At length he made shift to reach out his hand to the bridle, though deeply blushing, and said, "Dear me now! well la! what will mammy think, and the children, when they come to see me, riding up here on this famous horse, and all these fine things! I know well enough how mammy will have a hearty cry, that's what she will; for she will think I STOLED him. But if any of the folks up our way should go to jaw about me, at that rate, I trust as how, general, you will take my part, and set 'em straight."
Marion smiled, and commended him for a good boy, and told him to give his compliments to his mother, and also his thanks to her, for being such a true mother to her children, in bringing them up so honestly.
But the general was told the next day, that Gwinn had said, "he always hated the tories, because they would not fight for their country; and, since the general had paid him so well for killing one of them, he was determined to try if he could not kill more."
And he did kill more too, I'll warrant him, for he was with us to the end of the war, in many a hard brush. And then he was such a dead shot with a rifle! Standing, running, or flying, it was all one to Gwinn. He would make nothing, at a hundred yards, to stop you a buck, at full tilt through the woods, as hard as he could crack it; and at every clip, to bring down the squirrels from the tops of the tallest trees of the forest.
Mutiny in our camp — Marion suppresses it — his address to the officers.
This war, though on our part a war of virtue, was not always so pleasant as might have been expected. Instances of human weakness often occurred to disturb our harmony, and fill good men's hearts with sorrow. For how, without grief, could we behold a man fighting by our side to-day like a hero, for the rights of bleeding humanity; to-morrow, like a headstrong child, or a headlong beast, trampling them under foot! And oh! how sad to see nature's goodliest gifts, of manly size, and strength, and courage, set off, too, in the proudest ornaments of war, the fierce cocked hat, the flaming regimentals, and golden shoulder-knots, all defeated of their power to charm, nay, all turned into pity and contempt, in consequence of our knowing the owners to be gamblers, swindlers, and villains!
Such was the truly pitiable case of some, in this our glorious war of liberty. For want of a good education, I mean the early precepts of virtue, from a parent's lips, with a few excellent books, to lift the noble kindlings of the soul, the flame could not ascend to what was heavenly and just; but with inverted point, struck downward to selfishness and vice. Men of this character, though enlisted in the war of liberty, were not her soldiers, felt not her enthusiasm, nor her consolations. They did not walk the camp, glorying in themselves, as men called to the honor of humbling the tyrant, and of establishing the golden reign of equal laws, in their own dear country, and thence, perhaps over all the earth. Alas! no! strangers to these divine views and wishes, they look no higher than sordid gain! and as there was but little of that reward to be had, they were often gloomy and low spirited. "Their life," they were wont murmuringly to say, "was wearing away; their country gave them nothing, and they must e'en try to do something for themselves."
In truth, PLUNDER, PLUNDER, was what they were spelling for. They were continually darting their greedy eyes upon every piece of merchandise that came in their way. They had the heart not only to plunder the tories, and to bring their unoffending children to want; but also to rob and ruin their own friends the whigs, if they could but do it with impunity.
I am led to these reflections by a most shameful affair, which happened in our camp about this time, and which threatened consequences as serious as their source was shameful.
We were encamped near the house of a rich man by the name of Cross. His wife, in sense and domestic virtues, was an Abigail; while as to her husband, his riches, though great, were his least recommendation, for he possessed all the generosity and honor of the noblest patriot. His soul delighted in Marion, whom he called the 'pillar of our cause'. Oft as he took leave of us, for battle, his bosom would heave, his visage swell, and the tear would start into his eye. And when he saw us return again, loaded with the spoils of victory, he would rush to meet us, with all a brother's transports on his face. His flocks and herds, his meat-houses and corn-fields, were all our own; while his generous looks would tell us that he still wished for more to give. Indeed, often at the most imminent risk of his life, he used to send us intelligence, and also furnish us with powder and ball. But this most amiable of men, was not permitted to see our cause triumphant; for in the midst of his sighs and tears for his struggling country, God took him to his own rest. The messenger of death came to him, in the character of a nervous fever. As the physicians did not like to visit him on his plantation, he was carried into Georgetown to be near them.
Marion went to see him the morning he set out; and immediately after his departure, fixed a guard at his house, that nothing might be disturbed. One would indeed have supposed it unnecessary to place a guard over such a house as his. But alas! what will not a base heart-hardening avarice do! And I blush while I relate, that, the very day after our generous friend was carried off, pale and hollow-eyed, to Georgetown, whence he never more returned, two of our officers, one of them a MAJOR, went to his house to pillage it!
The guard, of course, opposed: but they damned him for an "impertinent rascal", and swore that if he opened his mouth again, they would spit him on the spot. Then bursting the door, they went in, and after forcing the desks, drawers, and trunks, they rifled them of whatever they wanted.
This most unsoldierly and detestable transaction was communicated to me by Mrs. Cross herself; whose servant came to me next morning with her compliments, and requested that I would go down to her, where she was sitting in her carriage at the road. I waited on her at once; and greatly to my grief, found her in tears. I entreated to know the cause.
"Oh, sir," replied she, "we are ruined! we are ruined! Poor Mr. Cross is, I fear, on his deathbed. And then what will become of me and my poor children, when he is gone, and every thing is taken from us!" She then reminded me of her husband's love to general Marion and his people, from whom he withheld nothing, but gladly imparted of all he had, though often at the risk of his utter destruction from the British and tories. "And yet, after all," said she, "soon as my poor sick husband's back is turned, your people can go and break him up!"
"Madam," I replied, "I hope 'tis no offence to ask your pardon; for I really cannot admit a suspicion so disgraceful to our troop: and to my certain knowledge, general Marion placed a guard over your house the moment Mr. Cross left it."
"Yes, sir," said she, "that's very true. And it was like general Marion. But some of our officers have forced the guard and broken open the house, and this instant I saw one of them with Mr. Cross's sword by his side."
I never felt more mortified in my life. Then, after entreating her to be perfectly easy about her house and furniture in future, I took leave of this excellent lady, and flew to the guard to see if what I had heard were true.
He told me it was too true; mentioned the names of the officers; and even went so far as to show me one of them strutting about with the sword by his side!
It was well for the wretch, that I did not possess the eyes of a basilisk, for I should certainly have blasted him on the spot. Pausing, however, one salutary moment, to confirm myself in the love of virtue, by noting how abominable a villain looks, I hasted to the general with the hateful tale; which excited in his honest bosom the indignation which I had expected. Then calling one of his aids, he said, "Go to major ——, and desire him to send me Mr. Cross's sword immediately."
The aid was presently back, but without the sword. On being asked by the general, why he had not brought it, he replied; "The major says, sir, that the sword does not belong to Mr. Cross. He says, moreover, that if you want the sword, you must go for it yourself."
"Well, go back," said the general, "and desire those two officers to come to me."
It was not for such an affair as this to be kept secret. It took wind in a moment; and by the time the two officers were arrived, almost all the field officers had come together to the general's quarters, to see how he would act on this extraordinary occasion.
Inferring from the looks of the two culprits, that they meant to test his firmness; and, willing that the company should fully understand the merits of the case, he thus addressed us:
"You well know, gentlemen," said he, "how like a brother the proprietor of this plantation has always treated us. We never gained a victory, but it caused him tears of joy; and however starved by others, by him we have ever been feasted. You also know, that he is now gone, sick, to Georgetown — there, perhaps, to die. Soon as he left us, I placed a guard over his house; but, at the same time, blushed for the reflection cast on my men; all of whom, as I thought, would, instead of robbing, have defended it with their lives. But, equally to my astonishment and grief, I find I was mistaken. Yes, gentlemen, our friend has been robbed, not by the poor untutored privates in the ranks, but by my OFFICERS! by those who ought to have ABHORRED such an act! Yes, gentlemen, two of our brethren in arms — two of our officers — forgetting what they owed to you, what they owed to me, and, most of all, to their country and to themselves, have done this odious deed! And one of them (here he pointed to the major) now wears by his side the sword of our sick and injured friend.
"Well knowing that all men, even the best, have too often 'done those things which they ought not to have done,' I felt it my duty to be as tender with this gentleman as possible; and therefore, sent him a polite request that he would return the sword: to which he was pleased to reply, that 'if I wanted it, I must come and take it myself.' Still wishing to settle the affair in a way as much to his credit as possible, I sent for him to come to me. And now, sir, (addressing the major) I entreat of you, for the last time, to give me up that sword."
With great rudeness he swore he would not. Instantly every face was dark: and, biting his lip with rage, each officer laid his hand upon his sword and looked to the general. One word, nay, one assenting LOOK, and the brute would have been hewed into mincemeat in a moment. For my own part, whether I felt more, or governed myself less than the rest, I cannot say: but looking to the general, I broke out with an oath, that if I commanded as he did, I would have that fellow hung in five minutes.
"This is no business of yours, sir," replied he, rather sternly; "they are now before me."
Then looking at the major, still with great benignity, he said — "And do you really mean, sir, not to give me up that sword?"
"Sir, I will not!" replied the major.
"Sergeant of the guard!" said the general, "bring me instantly a file of soldiers!"
Upon this, the major's colleague, who stood by, was seen to touch him.
Seeing the guard coming up with their naked weapons, and much anger in their looks, the major lost his courage, turned pale, and, in a sadly altered tone, whined out, "General, you needed not to have called in the guard. I will deliver up the sword. Here it is."
"No, sir, I will not accept it at your hands. Give it to the sergeant."
To this humiliating order, with much shame and blushing, the poor major was constrained to comply.
Thus, happily, were extinguished the first sparks of a mutiny, which, it was once thought, would have broken out into a dangerous flame. The cool, dispassionate address which effected this, did not fail to produce a proper impression on us all. This the general easily perceived in our looks; and thereupon, as was common with him, when any such occasion served, he arose and addressed us, in, as nearly as I can recollect, the following words:
"When, gentlemen, shall we catch the spirit of our profession; the spirit of men fighting for a republic, a commonwealth of brothers! that government most glorious, where God alone is king! that government most pleasant, where men make and obey their own laws! and that government most prosperous, where men, reaping as they sow, feel the utmost stimulus to every virtue that can exalt the human character and condition! This government, the glory of the earth, has ever been the desire of the wise and good of all nations. For this, the Platos of Greece, the Catos of Rome, the Tells of Switzerland, the Sidneys of England, and the Washingtons of America, have sighed and reasoned, have fought and died. In this grand army, gentlemen, we are now enlisted; and are combatting under the same banners with those excellent men of the earth. Then let self-gratulation gladden our every heart, and swell each high-toned nerve. With such worthies by our sides, with such a CAUSE before our eyes, let us move on with joy to the battle and charge like the honored champions of God and of human rights. But, in the moment of victory, let the supplicating enemy find us as lovely in mercy, as we are terrible in valor. Our enemies are blind. They neither understand nor desire the happiness of mankind. Ignorant, therefore, as children, they claim our pity for themselves. And as to their widows and little ones, the very thought of them should fill our souls with tenderness. The crib that contains their corn, the cow that gives them milk, the cabin that shelters their feeble heads from the storm, should be sacred in our eyes. Weak and helpless, as they are, still they are the nurslings of heaven — our best intercessors with the Almighty. Let them but give us their blessings, and I care not how much the British curse. Let their prayers ascend up before God in our behalf, and Cornwallis and Tarleton shall yet flee before us, like frightened wolves before the well armed shepherds!"
Such were the words of Marion, in the day when he saw in our looks, that our hearts were prepared for instruction. And such was the epilogue to the mutiny. The satisfaction which it gave to the officers was so general and sincere, that I often heard them say afterwards, that since the mutiny was suppressed, they were glad it happened; for it had given them an opportunity to hear a lecture, which they hoped would make them better men and braver soldiers too, as long as they lived.
About this time we received a flag from the enemy in Georgetown; the object of which was, to make some arrangements about the exchange of prisoners. The flag, after the usual ceremony of blindfolding, was conducted into Marion's encampment. Having heard great talk about general Marion, his fancy had, naturally enough, sketched out for him some stout figure of a warrior, such as O'Hara or Cornwallis himself, of martial aspect and flaming regimentals. But what was his surprise, when, led into Marion's presence, and the bandage taken from his eyes, he beheld in our hero, a swarthy, smoke-dried little man, with scarce enough of threadbare homespun to cover his nakedness! and in place of tall ranks, of gaily dressed soldiers, a handful of sunburnt yellow-legged militia-men; some roasting potatoes and some asleep, with their black firelocks and powder-horns lying by them on the logs! Having recovered a little from his surprise, he presented his letter to general Marion; who perused it, and soon settled everything to his satisfaction.
The officer took up his hat to retire.
"Oh no!" said Marion; "it is now about our time of dining; and I hope, sir, you will give us the pleasure of your company to dinner."
At mention of the word 'dinner', the British officer looked around him; but to his great mortification, could see no sign of a pot, pan, Dutch-oven, or any other cooking utensil that could raise the spirits of a hungry man.