Gates proposed to Burgoyne hard terms—surrender with no honors of war. The British were to lay down their arms in their encampments and to march out without weapons of any kind. Burgoyne declared that, rather than accept such terms, he would fight still and take no quarter. A shadow was falling on the path of Gates. The term of service of some of his men had expired. The New Englanders were determined to stay and see the end of Burgoyne but a good many of the New York troops went off. Sickness, too, was increasing. Above all General Clinton was advancing up the Hudson. British ships could come up freely as far as Albany and in a few days Clinton might make a formidable advance. Gates, a timid man, was in a hurry. He therefore agreed that the British should march from their camp with the honors of war, that the troops should be taken to New England, and from there to England. They must not serve again in North America during the war but there was nothing in the terms to prevent their serving in Europe and relieving British regiments for service in America. Gates had the courtesy to keep his army where it could not see the laying down of arms by Burgoyne's force. About five thousand men, of whom sixteen hundred were Germans and only three thousand five hundred fit for duty, surrendered to sixteen thousand Americans. Burgoyne gave offense to German officers by saying in his report that he might have held out longer had all his troops been British. This is probably true but the British met with only a just Nemesis for using soldiers who had no call of duty to serve.
The army set out on its long march of two hundred miles to Boston. The late autumn weather was cold, the army was badly clothed and fed, and the discomfort of the weary route was increased by the bitter antagonism of the inhabitants. They respected the regular British soldier but at the Germans they shouted insults and the Loyalists they despised as traitors. The camp at the journey's end was on the ground at Cambridge where two years earlier Washington had trained his first army. Every day Burgoyne expected to embark. There was delay and, at last, he knew the reason. Congress repudiated the terms granted by Gates. A tangled dispute followed. Washington probably had no sympathy with the quibbling of Congress. But he had no desire to see this army return to Europe and release there an army to serve in America. Burgoyne's force was never sent to England. For nearly a year it lay at Boston. Then it was marched to Virginia. The men suffered great hardships and the numbers fell by desertion and escape. When peace came in 1783 there was no army to take back to England; Burgoyne's soldiers had been merged into the American people. It may well be, indeed, that descendants of his beaten men have played an important part in building up the United States. The irony of history is unconquerable.
CHAPTER VII. WASHINGTON AND HIS COMRADES AT VALLEY FORGE
Washington had met defeat in every considerable battle at which he was personally present. His first appearance in military history, in the Ohio campaign against the French, twenty-two years before the Revolution, was marked by a defeat, the surrender of Fort Necessity. Again in the next year, when he fought to relieve the disaster to Braddock's army, defeat was his portion. Defeat had pursued him in the battles of the Revolution—before New York, at the Brandywine, at Germantown. The campaign against Canada, which he himself planned, had failed. He had lost New York and Philadelphia. But, like William III of England, who in his long struggle with France hardly won a battle and yet forced Louis XIV to accept his terms of peace, Washington, by suddenness in reprisal, by skill in resource when his plans seemed to have been shattered, grew on the hard rock of defeat the flower of victory.
There was never a time when Washington was not trusted by men of real military insight or by the masses of the people. But a general who does not win victories in the field is open to attack. By the winter of 1777 when Washington, with his army reduced and needy, was at Valley Forge keeping watch on Howe in Philadelphia, John Adams and others were talking of the sin of idolatry in the worship of Washington, of its flavor of the accursed spirit of monarchy, and of the punishment which "the God of Heaven and Earth" must inflict for such perversity. Adams was all against a Fabian policy and wanted to settle issues forever by a short and strenuous war. The idol, it was being whispered, proved after all to have feet of clay. One general, and only one, had to his credit a really great victory—Gates, to whom Burgoyne had surrendered at Saratoga, and there was a movement to replace Washington by this laureled victor.
General Conway, an Irish soldier of fortune, was one of the most troublesome in this plot. He had served in the campaign about Philadelphia but had been blocked in his extravagant demands for promotion; so he turned for redress to Gates, the star in the north. A malignant campaign followed in detraction of Washington. He had, it was said, worn out his men by useless marches; with an army three times as numerous as that of Howe, he had gained no victory; there was high fighting quality in the American army if properly led, but Washington despised the militia; a Gates or a Lee or a Conway would save the cause as Washington could not; and so on. "Heaven has determined to save your country or a weak general and bad counsellors would have ruined it"; so wrote Conway to Gates and Gates allowed the letter to be seen. The words were reported to Washington, who at once, in high dudgeon, called Conway to account. An explosion followed. Gates both denied that he had received a letter with the passage in question, and, at the same time, charged that there had been tampering with his private correspondence. He could not have it both ways. Conway was merely impudent in reply to Washington, but Gates laid the whole matter before Congress. Washington wrote to Gates, in reply to his denials, ironical references to "rich treasures of knowledge and experience" "guarded with penurious reserve" by Conway from his leaders but revealed to Gates. There was no irony in Washington's reference to malignant detraction and mean intrigue. At the same time he said to Gates: "My temper leads me to peace and harmony with all men," and he deplored the internal strife which injured the great cause. Conway soon left America. Gates lived to command another American army and to end his career by a crowning disaster.
Washington had now been for more than two years in the chief command and knew his problems. It was a British tradition that standing armies were a menace to liberty, and the tradition had gained strength in crossing the sea. Washington would have wished a national army recruited by Congress alone and bound to serve for the duration of the war. There was much talk at the time of a "new model army" similar in type to the wonderful creation of Oliver Cromwell. The Thirteen Colonies became, however, thirteen nations. Each reserved the right to raise its own levies in its own way. To induce men to enlist Congress was twice handicapped. First, it had no power of taxation and could only ask the States to provide what it needed. The second handicap was even greater. When Congress offered bounties to those who enlisted in the Continental army, some of the States offered higher bounties for their own levies of militia, and one authority was bidding against the other. This encouraged short-term enlistments. If a man could re-enlist and again secure a bounty, he would gain more than if he enlisted at once for the duration of the war.
An army is an intricate mechanism needing the same variety of agencies that is required for the well-being of a community. The chief aim is, of course, to defeat the enemy, and to do this an army must be prepared to move rapidly. Means of transport, so necessary in peace, are even more urgently needed in war. Thus Washington always needed military engineers to construct roads and bridges. Before the Revolution the greater part of such services had been provided in America by the regular British army, now the enemy. British officers declared that the American army was without engineers who knew the science of war, and certainly the forts on which they spent their skill in the North, those on the lower Hudson, and at Ticonderoga, at the head of Lake George, fell easily before the assailant. Good maps were needed, and in this Washington was badly served, though the defect was often corrected by his intimate knowledge of the country. Another service ill-equipped was what we should now call the Red Cross. Epidemics, and especially smallpox, wrought havoc in the army. Then, as now, shattered nerves were sometimes the result of the strain of military life. "The wind of a ball," what we should now call shellshock, sometimes killed men whose bodies appeared to be uninjured. To our more advanced knowledge the medical science of the time seems crude. The physicians of New England, today perhaps the most expert body of medical men in the world, were even then highly skillful. But the surgeons and nurses were too few. This was true of both sides in the conflict. Prisoners in hospitals often suffered terribly and each side brought charges of ill-treatment against the other. The prison-ships in the harbor of New York, where American prisoners were confined, became a scandal, and much bitter invective against British brutality is found in the literature of the period. The British leaders, no less than Washington himself, were humane men, and ignorance and inadequate equipment will explain most of the hardships, though an occasional officer on either side was undoubtedly callous in respect to the sufferings of the enemy.
Food and clothing, the first vital necessities of an army, were often deplorably scarce. In a land of farmers there was food enough. Its lack in the army was chiefly due to bad transport. Clothing was another matter. One of the things insisted upon in a well-trained army is a decent regard for appearance, and in the eyes of the French and the British officers the American army usually seemed rather unkempt. The formalities of dress, the uniformity of pipe-clay and powdered hair, of polished steel and brass, can of course be overdone. The British army had too much of it, but to Washington's force the danger was of having too little. It was not easy to induce farmers and frontiersmen who at home began the day without the use of water, razor, or brush, to appear on parade clean, with hair powdered, faces shaved, and clothes neat. In the long summer days the men were told to shave before going to bed that they might prepare the more quickly for parade in the morning, and to fill their canteens over night if an early march was imminent. Some of the regiments had uniforms which gave them a sufficiently smart appearance. The cocked hat, the loose hunting shirt with its fringed border, the breeches of brown leather or duck, the brown gaiters or leggings, the powdered hair, were familiar marks of the soldier of the Revolution.
During a great part of the war, however, in spite of supplies brought from both lance and the West Indies, Washington found it difficult to secure for his men even decent clothing of any kind, whether of military cut or not. More than a year after he took command, in the fighting about New York, a great part of his army had no more semblance of uniform than hunting shirts on a common pattern. In the following December, he wrote of many men as either shivering in garments fit only for summer wear or as entirely naked. There was a time in the later campaign in the South when hundreds of American soldiers marched stark naked, except for breech cloths. One of the most pathetic hardships of the soldier's life was due to the lack of boots. More than one of Washington's armies could be tracked by the bloody footprints of his barefooted men. Near the end of the war Benedict Arnold, who knew whereof he spoke, described the American army as "illy clad, badly fed, and worse paid," pay being then two or three years overdue. On the other hand, there is evidence that life in the army was not without its compensations. Enforced dwelling in the open air saved men from diseases such as consumption and the movement from camp to camp gave a broader outlook to the farmer's sons. The army could usually make a brave parade. On ceremonial occasions the long hair of the men would be tied back and made white with powder, even though their uniforms were little more than rags.
The men carried weapons some of which, in, at any rate, the early days of the war, were made by hand at the village smithy. A man might take to the war a weapon forged by himself. The American soldier had this advantage over the British soldier, that he used, if not generally, at least in some cases, not the smooth-bore musket but the grooved rifle by which the ball was made to rotate in its flight. The fire from this rifle was extremely accurate. At first weapons were few and ammunition was scanty, but in time there were importations from France and also supplies from American gun factories. The standard length of the barrel was three and a half feet, a portentous size compared with that of the modern weapon. The loading was from the muzzle, a process so slow that one of the favorite tactics of the time was to await the fire of the enemy and then charge quickly and bayonet him before he could reload. The old method of firing off the musket by means of slow matches kept alight during action was now obsolete; the latest device was the flintlock. But there was always a measure of doubt whether the weapon would go off. Partly on this account Benjamin Franklin, the wisest man of his time, declared for the use of the pike of an earlier age rather than the bayonet and for bows and arrows instead of firearms. A soldier, he said, could shoot four arrows to one bullet. An arrow wound was more disabling than a bullet wound; and arrows did not becloud the vision with smoke. The bullet remained, however, the chief means of destruction, and the fire of Washington's soldiers usually excelled that of the British. These, in their turn, were superior in the use of the bayonet.
Powder and lead were hard to get. The inventive spirit of America was busy with plans to procure saltpeter and other ingredients for making powder, but it remained scarce. Since there was no standard firearm, each soldier required bullets specially suited to his weapon. The men melted lead and cast it in their own bullet-molds. It is an instance of the minor ironies of war that the great equestrian statue of George III, which had been erected in New York in days more peaceful, was melted into bullets for killing that monarch's soldiers. Another necessity was paper for cartridges and wads. The cartridge of that day was a paper envelope containing the charge of ball and powder. This served also as a wad, after being emptied of its contents, and was pushed home with a ramrod. A store of German Bibles in Pennsylvania fell into the hands of the soldiers at a moment when paper was a crying need, and the pages of these Bibles were used for wads.
The artillery of the time seems feeble compared with the monster weapons of death which we know in our own age. Yet it was an important factor in the war. It is probable that before the war not a single cannon had been made in the colonies. From the outset Washington was hampered for lack of artillery. Neutrals, especially the Dutch in the West Indies, sold guns to the Americans, and France was a chief source of supply during long periods when the British lost the command of the sea. There was always difficulty about equipping cavalry, especially in the North. The Virginian was at home on horseback, and in the farther South bands of cavalry did service during the later years of the war, but many of the fighting riders of today might tomorrow be guiding their horses peacefully behind the plough.
The pay of the soldiers remained to Washington a baffling problem. When the war ended their pay was still heavily in arrears. The States were timid about imposing taxation and few if any paid promptly the levies made upon them. Congress bridged the chasm in finance by issuing paper money which so declined in value that, as Washington said grimly, it required a wagon-load of money to pay for a wagon-load of supplies. The soldier received his pay in this money at its face value, and there is little wonder that the "continental dollar" is still in the United States a symbol of worthlessness. At times the lack of pay caused mutiny which would have been dangerous but for Washington's firm and tactful management in the time of crisis. There was in him both the kindly feeling of the humane man and the rigor of the army leader. He sent men to death without flinching, but he was at one with his men in their sufferings, and no problem gave him greater anxiety than that of pay, affecting, as it did, the health and spirits of men who, while unpaid, had no means of softening the daily tale of hardship.
Desertion was always hard to combat. With the homesickness which led sometimes to desertion Washington must have had a secret sympathy, for his letters show that he always longed for that pleasant home in Virginia which he did not allow himself to revisit until nearly the end of the war. The land of a farmer on service often remained untilled, and there are pathetic cases of families in bitter need because the breadwinner was in the army. In frontier settlements his absence sometimes meant the massacre of his family by the savages. There is little wonder that desertion was common, so common that after a reverse the men went away by hundreds. As they usually carried with them their rifles and other equipment, desertion involved a double loss. On one occasion some soldiers undertook for themselves the punishment of deserters. Men of the First Pennsylvania Regiment who had recaptured three deserters, beheaded one of them and returned to their camp with the head carried on a pole. More than once it happened that condemned men were paraded before the troops for execution with the graves dug and the coffins lying ready. The death sentence would be read, and then, as the firing party took aim, a reprieve would be announced. The reprieve in such circumstances was omitted often enough to make the condemned endure the real agony of death.
Religion offered its consolations in the army and Washington gave much thought to the service of the chaplains. He told his army that fine as it was to be a patriot it was finer still to be a Christian. It is an odd fact that, though he attended the Anglican Communion service before and after the war, he did not partake of the Communion during the war. What was in his mind we do not know. He was disposed, as he said himself, to let men find "that road to Heaven which to them shall seem the most direct," and he was without Puritan fervor, but he had deep religious feeling. During the troubled days at Valley Forge a neighbor came upon him alone in the bush on his knees praying aloud, and stole away unobserved. He would not allow in the army a favorite Puritan custom of burning the Pope in effigy, and the prohibition was not easily enforced among men, thousands of whom bore scriptural names from ancestors who thought the Pope anti-Christ.
Washington's winter quarters at Valley Forge were only twenty miles from Philadelphia, among hills easily defended. It is matter for wonder that Howe, with an army well equipped, did not make some attempt to destroy the army of Washington which passed the winter so near and in acute distress. The Pennsylvania Loyalists, with dark days soon to come, were bitter at Howe's inactivity, full of tragic meaning for themselves. He said that he could achieve nothing permanent by attack. It may be so; but it is a sound principle in warfare to destroy the enemy when this is possible. There was a time when in Washington's whole force not more than two thousand men were in a condition to fight. Congress was responsible for the needs of the army but was now, in sordid inefficiency, cooped up in the little town of York, eighty miles west of Valley Forge, to which it had fled. There was as yet no real federal union. The seat of authority was in the State Governments, and we need not wonder that, with the passing of the first burst of devotion which united the colonies in a common cause, Congress declined rapidly in public esteem. "What a lot of damned scoundrels we had in that second Congress" said, at a later date, Gouverneur Morris of Philadelphia to John Jay of New York, and Jay answered gravely, "Yes, we had." The body, so despised in the retrospect, had no real executive government, no organized departments. Already before Independence was proclaimed there had been talk of a permanent union, but the members of Congress had shown no sense of urgency, and it was not until November 15, 1777, when the British were in Philadelphia and Congress was in exile at York, that Articles of Confederation were adopted. By the following midsummer many of the States had ratified these articles, but Maryland, the last to assent, did not accept the new union until 1781, so that Congress continued to act for the States without constitutional sanction during the greater part of the war.
The ineptitude of Congress is explained when we recall that it was a revolutionary body which indeed controlled foreign affairs and the issues of war and peace, coined money, and put forth paper money but had no general powers. Each State had but one vote, and thus a small and sparsely settled State counted for as much as populous Massachusetts or Virginia. The Congress must deal with each State only as a unit; it could not coerce a State; and it had no authority to tax or to coerce individuals. The utmost it could do was to appeal to good feeling, and when a State felt that it had a grievance such an appeal was likely to meet with a flaming retort.
Washington maintained towards Congress an attitude of deference and courtesy which it did not always deserve. The ablest men in the individual States held aloof from Congress. They felt that they had more dignity and power if they sat in their own legislatures. The assembly which in the first days had as members men of the type of Washington and Franklin sank into a gathering of second-rate men who were divided into fierce factions. They debated interminably and did little. Each member usually felt that he must champion the interests of his own State against the hostility of others. It was not easy to create a sense of national life. The union was only a league of friendship. States which for a century or more had barely acknowledged their dependence upon Great Britain, were chary about coming under the control of a new centralizing authority at Philadelphia. The new States were sovereign and some of them went so far as to send envoys of their own to negotiate with foreign powers in Europe. When it was urged that Congress should have the power to raise taxes in the States, there were patriots who asked sternly what the war was about if it was not to vindicate the principle that the people of a State alone should have power of taxation over themselves. Of New England all the other States were jealous and they particularly disliked that proud and censorious city which already was accused of believing that God had made Boston for Himself and all the rest of the world for Boston. The religion of New England did not suit the Anglicans of Virginia or the Roman Catholics of Maryland, and there was resentful suspicion of Puritan intolerance. John Adams said quite openly that there were no religious teachers in Philadelphia to compare with those of Boston and naturally other colonies drew away from the severe and rather acrid righteousness of which he was a type.
Inefficiency meanwhile brought terrible suffering at Valley Forge, and the horrors of that winter remain still vivid in the memory of the American people. The army marched to Valley Forge on December 17, 1777, and in midwinter everything from houses to entrenchments had still to be created. At once there was busy activity in cutting down trees for the log huts. They were built nearly square, sixteen feet by fourteen, in rows, with the door opening on improvised streets. Since boards were scarce, and it was difficult to make roofs rainproof, Washington tried to stimulate ingenuity by offering a reward of one hundred dollars for an improved method of roofing. The fireplaces of wood were protected with thick clay. Firewood was abundant, but, with little food for oxen and horses, men had to turn themselves into draught animals to bring in supplies.
Sometimes the army was for a week without meat. Many horses died for lack of forage or of proper care, a waste which especially disturbed Washington, a lover of horses. When quantities of clothing were ready for use, they were not delivered at Valley Forge owing to lack of transport. Washington expressed his contempt for officers who resigned their commissions in face of these distresses. No one, he said, ever heard him say a word about resignation. There were many desertions but, on the whole, he marveled at the patience of his men and that they did not mutiny. With a certain grim humor they chanted phrases about "no pay, no clothes, no provisions, no rum," and sang an ode glorifying war and Washington. Hundreds of them marched barefoot, their blood staining the snow or the frozen ground while, at the same time, stores of shoes and clothing were lying unused somewhere on the roads to the camp.
Sickness raged in the army. Few men at Valley Forge, wrote Washington, had more than a sheet, many only part of a sheet, and some nothing at all. Hospital stores were lacking. For want of straw and blankets the sick lay perishing on the frozen ground. When Washington had been at Valley Forge for less than a week, he had to report nearly three thousand men unfit for duty because of their nakedness in the bitter winter. Then, as always, what we now call the "profiteer" was holding up supplies for higher prices. To the British at Philadelphia, because they paid in gold, things were furnished which were denied to Washington at Valley Forge, and he announced that he would hang any one who took provisions to Philadelphia. To keep his men alive Washington had sometimes to take food by force from the inhabitants and then there was an outcry that this was robbery. With many sick, his horses so disabled that he could not move his artillery, and his defenses very slight, he could have made only a weak fight had Howe attacked him. Yet the legislature of Pennsylvania told him that, instead of lying quiet in winter quarters, he ought to be carrying on an active campaign. In most wars irresponsible men sitting by comfortable firesides are sure they knew best how the thing should be done.
The bleak hillside at Valley Forge was something more than a prison. Washington's staff was known as his family and his relations with them were cordial and even affectionate. The young officers faced their hardships cheerily and gave meager dinners to which no one might go if he was so well off as to have trousers without holes. They talked and sang and jested about their privations. By this time many of the bad officers, of whom Washington complained earlier, had been weeded out and he was served by a body of devoted men. There was much good comradeship. Partnership in suffering tends to draw men together. In the company which gathered about Washington, two men, mere youths at the time, have a world-wide fame. The young Alexander Hamilton, barely twenty-one years of age, and widely known already for his political writings, had the rank of lieutenant colonel gained for his services in the fighting about New York. He was now Washington's confidential secretary, a position in which he soon grew restless. His ambition was to be one of the great military leaders of the Revolution. Before the end of the war he had gone back to fighting and he distinguished himself in the last battle of the war at Yorktown. The other youthful figure was the Marquis de La Fayette. It is not without significance that a noble square bears his name in the capital named after Washington. The two men loved each other. The young French aristocrat, with both a great name and great possessions, was fired in 1776, when only nineteen, with zeal for the American cause. "With the welfare of America," he wrote to his wife, "is closely linked the welfare of mankind." Idealists in France believed that America was leading in the remaking of the world. When it was known that La Fayette intended to go to fight in America, the King of France forbade it, since France had as yet no quarrel with England. The youth, however, chartered a ship, landed in South Carolina, hurried to Philadelphia, and was a major general in the American army when he was twenty years of age.
La Fayette rendered no serious military service to the American cause. He arrived in time to fight in the battle of the Brandywine. Washington praised him for his bravery and military ardor and wrote to Congress that he was sensible, discreet, and able to speak English freely. It was with an eye to the influence in France of the name of the young noble that Congress advanced him so rapidly. La Fayette was sincere and generous in spirit. He had, however, little military capacity. Later when he might have directed the course of the French Revolution he was found wanting in force of character. The great Mirabeau tried to work with him for the good of France, but was repelled by La Fayette's jealous vanity, a vanity so greedy of praise that Jefferson called it a "canine appetite for popularity and fame." La Fayette once said that he had never bad a thought with which he could reproach himself, and he boasted that he has mastered three kings—the King of England in the American Revolution, the King of France, and King Mob of Paris during the upheaval in France. He was useful as a diplomatist rather than as a soldier. Later, in an hour of deep need, Washington sent La Fayette to France to ask for aid. He was influential at the French court and came back with abundant promises, which were in part fulfilled.
Washington himself and Oliver Cromwell are perhaps the only two civilian generals in history who stand in the first rank as military leaders. It is doubtful indeed whether it is not rather character than military skill which gives Washington his place. Only one other general of the Revolution attained to first rank even in secondary fame. Nathanael Greene was of Quaker stock from Rhode Island. He was a natural student and when trouble with the mother country was impending in 1774 he spent the leisure which he could spare from his forges in the study of military history and in organizing the local militia. Because of his zeal for military service he was expelled from the Society of Friends. In 1775 when war broke out he was promptly on hand with a contingent from Rhode Island. In little more than a year and after a very slender military experience he was in command of the army on Long Island. On the Hudson defeat not victory was his lot. He had, however, as much stern resolve as Washington. He shared Washington's success in the attack on Trenton, and his defeats at the Brandywine and at Germantown. Now he was at Valley Forge, and when, on March 2, 1778, he became quartermaster general, the outlook for food and supplies steadily improved. Later, in the South, he rendered brilliant service which made possible the final American victory at Yorktown.
Henry Knox, a Boston bookseller, had, like Greene, only slight training for military command. It shows the dearth of officers to fight the highly disciplined British army that Knox, at the age of twenty-five, and fresh from commercial life, was placed in charge of the meager artillery which Washington had before Boston. It was Knox, who, with heart-breaking labor, took to the American front the guns captured at Ticonderoga. Throughout the war he did excellent service with the artillery, and Washington placed a high value upon his services. He valued too those of Daniel Morgan, an old fighter in the Indian wars, who left his farm in Virginia when war broke out, and marched his company of riflemen to join the army before Boston. He served with Arnold at the siege of Quebec, and was there taken prisoner. He was exchanged and had his due revenge when he took part in the capture of Burgoyne's army. He was now at Valley Forge. Later he had a command under Greene in the South and there, as we shall see, he won the great success of the Battle of Cowpens in January, 1781.
It was the peculiar misfortune of Washington that the three men, Arnold, Lee, and Gates, who ought to have rendered him the greatest service, proved unfaithful. Benedict Arnold, next to Washington himself, was probably the most brilliant and resourceful soldier of the Revolution. Washington so trusted him that, when the dark days at Valley Forge were over, he placed him in command of the recaptured federal capital. Today the name of Arnold would rank high in the memory of a grateful country had he not fallen into the bottomless pit of treason. The same is in some measure true of Charles Lee, who was freed by the British in an exchange of prisoners and joined Washington at Valley Forge late in the spring of 1778. Lee was so clever with his pen as to be one of the reputed authors of the Letters of Junius. He had served as a British officer in the conquest of Canada, and later as major general in the army of Poland. He had a jealous and venomous temper and could never conceal the contempt of the professional soldier for civilian generals. He, too, fell into the abyss of treason. Horatio Gates, also a regular soldier, had served under Braddock and was thus at that early period a comrade of Washington. Intriguer he was, but not a traitor. It was incompetence and perhaps cowardice which brought his final ruin.
Europe had thousands of unemployed officers some of whom had had experience in the Seven Years' War and many turned eagerly to America for employment. There were some good soldiers among these fighting adventurers. Kosciuszko, later famous as a Polish patriot, rose by his merits to the rank of brigadier general in the American army; De Kalb, son of a German peasant, though not a baron, as he called himself, proved worthy of the rank of a major general. There was, however, a flood of volunteers of another type. French officers fleeing from their creditors and sometimes under false names and titles, made their way to America as best they could and came to Washington with pretentious claims. Germans and Poles there were, too, and also exiles from that unhappy island which remains still the most vexing problem of British politics. Some of them wrote their own testimonials; some, too, were spies. On the first day, Washington wrote, they talked only of serving freely a noble cause, but within a week were demanding promotion and advance of money. Sometimes they took a high tone with members of Congress who had not courage to snub what Washington called impudence and vain boasting. "I am haunted and teased to death by the importunity of some and dissatisfaction of others" wrote Washington of these people.
One foreign officer rendered incalculable service to the American cause. It was not only on the British side that Germans served in the American Revolution. The Baron von Steuben was, like La Fayette, a man of rank in his own country, and his personal service to the Revolution was much greater than that of La Fayette. Steuben had served on the staff of Frederick the Great and was distinguished for his wit and his polished manners. There was in him nothing of the needy adventurer. The sale of Hessian and other troops to the British by greedy German princes was met in some circles in Germany by a keen desire to aid the cause of the young republic. Steuben, who held a lucrative post, became convinced, while on a visit to Paris, that he could render service in training the Americans. With quick sympathy and showing no reserve in his generous spirit he abandoned his country, as it proved forever, took ship for the United States, and arrived in November, 1777. Washington welcomed him at Valley Forge in the following March. He was made Inspector General and at once took in hand the organization of the army. He prepared "Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States" later, in 1779, issued as a book. Under this German influence British methods were discarded. The word of command became short and sharp. The British practice of leaving recruits to be trained by sergeants, often ignorant, coarse, and brutal, was discarded, and officers themselves did this work. The last letter which Washington wrote before he resigned his command at the end of the war was to thank Steuben for his invaluable aid. Charles Lee did not believe that American recruits could be quickly trained so as to be able to face the disciplined British battalions. Steuben was to prove that Lee was wrong to Lee's own entire undoing at Monmouth when fighting began in 1778.
The British army in America furnished sharp contrasts to that of Washington. If the British jeered at the fighting quality of citizens, these retorted that the British soldier was a mere slave. There were two great stains upon the British system, the press-gang and flogging. Press-gangs might seize men abroad in the streets of a town and, unless they could prove that they were gentlemen in rank, they could be sent in the fleet to serve in the remotest corners of the earth. In both navy and army flogging outraged the dignity of manhood. The liability to this brutal and degrading punishment kept all but the dregs of the populace from enlisting in the British army. It helped to fix the deep gulf between officers and men. Forty years later Napoleon Bonaparte, despot though he might be, was struck by this separation. He himself went freely among his men, warmed himself at their fire, and talked to them familiarly about their work, and he thought that the British officer was too aloof in his demeanor. In the British army serving in America there were many officers of aristocratic birth and long training in military science. When they found that American officers were frequently drawn from a class of society which in England would never aspire to a commission, and were largely self-taught, not unnaturally they jeered at an army so constituted. Another fact excited British disdain. The Americans were technically rebels against their lawful ruler, and rebels in arms have no rights as belligerents. When the war ended more than a thousand American prisoners were still held in England on the capital charge of treason. Nothing stirred Washington's anger more deeply than the remark sometimes made by British officers that the prisoners they took were receiving undeserved mercy when they were not hanged.
There was much debate at Valley Forge as to the prospect for the future. When we look at available numbers during the war we appreciate the view of a British officer that in spite of Washington's failures and of British victories the war was serious, "an ugly job, a damned affair indeed." The population of the colonies—some 2,500,000—was about one-third that of the United Kingdom; and for the British the war was remote from the base of supply. In those days, considering the means of transport, America was as far from England as at the present day is Australia. Sometimes the voyage across the sea occupied two and even three months, and, with the relatively small ships of the time, it required a vast array of transports to carry an army of twenty or thirty thousand men. In the spring of 1776 Great Britain had found it impossible to raise at home an army of even twenty thousand men for service in America, and she was forced to rely in large part upon mercenary soldiers. This was nothing new. Her island people did not like service abroad and this unwillingness was intensified in regard to war in remote America. Moreover Whig leaders in England discouraged enlistment. They were bitterly hostile to the war which they regarded as an attack not less on their own liberties than on those of America. It would be too much to ascribe to the ignorant British common soldier of the time any deep conviction as to the merits or demerits of the cause for which he fought. There is no evidence that, once in the army, he was less ready to attack the Americans than any other foe. Certainly the Americans did not think he was half-hearted.
The British soldier fought indeed with more resolute determination than did the hired auxiliary at his side. These German troops played a notable part in the war. The despotic princes of the lesser German states were accustomed to sell the services of their troops. Despotic Russia, too, was a likely field for such enterprise. When, however, it was proposed to the Empress Catherine II that she should furnish twenty thousand men for service in America she retorted with the sage advice that it was England's true interest to settle the quarrel in America without war. Germany was left as the recruiting field. British efforts to enlist Germans as volunteers in her own army were promptly checked by the German rulers and it was necessary literally to buy the troops from their princes. One-fourth of the able-bodied men of Hesse-Cassel were shipped to America. They received four times the rate of pay at home and their ruler received in addition some half million dollars a year. The men suffered terribly and some died of sickness for the homes to which thousands of them never returned. German generals, such as Knyphausen and Riedesel, gave the British sincere and effective service. The Hessians were, however, of doubtful benefit to the British. It angered the Americans that hired troops should be used against them, an anger not lessened by the contempt which the Hessians showed for the colonial officers as plebeians.
The two sides were much alike in their qualities and were skillful in propaganda. In Britain lurid tales were told of the colonists scalping the wounded at Lexington and using poisoned bullets at Bunker Hill. In America every prisoner in British hands was said to be treated brutally and every man slain in the fighting to have been murdered. The use of foreign troops was a fruitful theme. The report ran through the colonies that the Hessians were huge ogre-like monsters, with double rows of teeth round each jaw, who had come at the call of the British tyrant to slay women and children. In truth many of the Hessians became good Americans. In spite of the loyalty of their officers they were readily induced to desert. The wit of Benjamin Franklin was enlisted to compose telling appeals, translated into simple German, which promised grants of land to those who should abandon an unrighteous cause. The Hessian trooper who opened a packet of tobacco might find in the wrapper appeals both to his virtue and to his cupidity. It was easy for him to resist them when the British were winning victories and he was dreaming of a return to the Fatherland with a comfortable accumulation of pay, but it was different when reverses overtook British arms. Then many hundreds slipped away; and today their blood flows in the veins of thousands of prosperous American farmers.
CHAPTER VIII. THE ALLIANCE WITH FRANCE AND ITS RESULTS
Washington badly needed aid from Europe, but there every important government was monarchical and it was not easy for a young republic, the child of revolution, to secure an ally. France tingled with joy at American victories and sorrowed at American reverses, but motives were mingled and perhaps hatred of England was stronger than love for liberty in America. The young La Fayette had a pure zeal, but he would not have fought for the liberty of colonists in Mexico as he did for those in Virginia; and the difference was that service in Mexico would not hurt the enemy of France so recently triumphant. He hated England and said so quite openly. The thought of humiliating and destroying that "insolent nation" was always to him an inspiration. Vergennes, the French Foreign Minister, though he lacked genius, was a man of boundless zeal and energy. He was at work at four o'clock in the morning and he spent his long days in toil for his country. He believed that England was the tyrant of the seas, "the monster against whom we should be always prepared," a greedy, perfidious neighbor, the natural enemy of France.
From the first days of the trouble in regard to the Stamp Act Vergennes had rejoiced that England's own children were turning against her. He had French military officers in England spying on her defenses. When war broke out he showed no nice regard for the rules of neutrality and helped the colonies in every way possible. It was a French writer who led in these activities. Beaumarchais is known to the world chiefly as the creator of the character of Figaro, which has become the type of the bold, clever, witty, and intriguing rascal, but he played a real part in the American Revolution. We need not inquire too closely into his motives. There was hatred of the English, that "audacious, unbridled, shameless people," and there was, too, the zeal for liberal ideas which made Queen Marie Antoinette herself take a pretty interest in the "dear republicans" overseas who were at the same time fighting the national enemy. Beaumarchais secured from the government money with which he purchased supplies to be sent to America. He had a great warehouse in Paris, and, under the rather fantastic Spanish name of Roderigue Hortalez & Co., he sent vast quantities of munitions and clothing to America. Cannon, not from private firms but from the government arsenals, were sent across the sea. When Vergennes showed scruples about this violation of neutrality, the answer of Beaumarchais was that governments were not bound by rules of morality applicable to private persons. Vergennes learned well the lesson and, while protesting to the British ambassador in Paris that France was blameless, he permitted outrageous breaches of the laws of neutrality.
Secret help was one thing, open alliance another. Early in 1776 Silas Deane, a member from Connecticut of the Continental Congress, was named as envoy to France to secure French aid. The day was to come when Deane should believe the struggle against Britain hopeless and counsel submission, but now he showed a furious zeal. He knew hardly a word of French, but this did not keep him from making his elaborate programme well understood. Himself a trader, he promised France vast profits from the monopoly of the trade of America when independence should be secure. He gave other promises not more easy of fulfillment. To Frenchmen zealous for the ideals of liberty and seeking military careers in America he promised freely commissions as colonels and even generals and was the chief cause of that deluge of European officers which proved to Washington so annoying. It was through Deane's activities that La Fayette became a volunteer. Through him came too the proposal to send to America the Comte de Broglie who should be greater than colonel or general—a generalissimo, a dictator. He was to brush aside Washington, to take command of the American armies, and by his prestige and skill to secure France as an ally and win victory in the field. For such services Broglie asked only despotic power while he served and for life a great pension which would, he declared, not be one-hundredth part of his real value. That Deane should have considered a scheme so fantastic reveals the measure of his capacity, and by the end of 1776 Benjamin Franklin was sent to Paris to bring his tried skill to bear upon the problem of the alliance. With Deane and Franklin as a third member of the commission was associated Arthur Lee who had vainly sought aid at the courts of Spain and Prussia. France was, however, coy. The end of 1776 saw the colonial cause at a very low ebb, with Washington driven from New York and about to be driven from Philadelphia. Defeat is not a good argument for an alliance. France was willing to send arms to America and willing to let American privateers use freely her ports. The ship which carried Franklin to France soon busied herself as a privateer and reaped for her crew a great harvest of prize money. In a single week of June, 1777, this ship captured a score of British merchantmen, of which more than two thousand were taken by Americans during the war. France allowed the American privateers to come and go as they liked, and gave England smooth words, but no redress. There is little wonder that England threatened to hang captured American sailors as pirates.
It was the capture of Burgoyne at Saratoga which brought decision to France. That was the victory which Vergennes had demanded before he would take open action. One British army had surrendered. Another was in an untenable position in Philadelphia. It was known that the British fleet had declined. With the best of it in America, France was the more likely to win successes in Europe. The Bourbon king of France could, too, draw into the war the Bourbon king of Spain, and Spain had good ships. The defects of France and Spain on the sea were not in ships but in men. The invasion of England was not improbable and then less than a score of years might give France both avenging justice for her recent humiliation and safety for her future. Britain should lose America, she should lose India, she should pay in a hundred ways for her past triumphs, for the arrogance of Pitt, who had declared that he would so reduce France that she should never again rise. The future should belong not to Britain but to France. Thus it was that fervent patriotism argued after the defeat of Burgoyne. Frederick the Great told his ambassador at Paris to urge upon France that she had now a chance to strike England which might never again come. France need not, he said, fear his enmity, for he was as likely to help England as the devil to help a Christian. Whatever doubts Vergennes may have entertained about an open alliance with America were now swept away. The treaty of friendship with America was signed on February 6, 1778. On the 13th of March the French ambassador in London told the British Government, with studied insolence of tone, that the United States were by their own declaration independent. Only a few weeks earlier the British ministry had said that there was no prospect of any foreign intervention to help the Americans and now in the most galling manner France told George III the one thing to which he would not listen, that a great part of his sovereignty was gone. Each country withdrew its ambassador and war quickly followed.
France had not tried to make a hard bargain with the Americans. She demanded nothing for herself and agreed not even to ask for the restoration of Canada. She required only that America should never restore the King's sovereignty in order to secure peace. Certain sections of opinion in America were suspicious of France. Was she not the old enemy who had so long harassed the frontiers of New England and New York? If George III was a despot what of Louis XVI, who had not even an elected Parliament to restrain him? Washington himself was distrustful of France and months after the alliance had been concluded he uttered the warning that hatred of England must not lead to over-confidence in France. "No nation," he said, "is to be trusted farther than it is bound by its interests." France, he thought, must desire to recover Canada, so recently lost. He did not wish to see a great military power on the northern frontier of the United States. This would be to confirm the jeer of the Loyalists that the alliance was a case of the wooden horse in Troy; the old enemy would come back in the guise of a friend and would then prove to be master and bring the colonies under a servitude compared with which the British supremacy would seem indeed mild.
The intervention of France brought a cruel embarrassment to the Whig patriot in England. He could rejoice and mourn with American patriots because he believed that their cause was his own. It was as much the interest of Norfolk as of Massachusetts that the new despotism of a king, who ruled through a corrupt Parliament, should be destroyed. It was, however, another matter when France took a share in the fight. France fought less for freedom than for revenge, and the Englishman who, like Coke of Norfolk, could daily toast Washington as the greatest of men could not link that name with Louis XVI or with his minister Vergennes. The currents of the past are too swift and intricate to be measured exactly by the observer who stands on the shore of the present, but it is arguable that the Whigs might soon have brought about peace in England had it not been for the intervention of France. No serious person any longer thought that taxation could be enforced upon America or that the colonies should be anything but free in regulating their own affairs. George III himself said that he who declared the taxing of America to be worth what it cost was "more fit for Bedlam than a seat in the Senate." The one concession Britain was not yet prepared to make was Independence. But Burke and many other Whigs were ready now for this, though Chatham still believed it would be the ruin of the British Empire.
Chatham, however, was all for conciliation, and it is not hard to imagine a group of wise men chosen from both sides, men British in blood and outlook, sitting round a table and reaching an agreement to result in a real independence for America and a real unity with Great Britain. A century and a quarter later a bitter war with an alien race in South Africa was followed by a result even more astounding. The surrender of Burgoyne had made the Prime Minister, Lord North, weary of his position. He had never been in sympathy with the King's policy and since the bad news had come in December he had pondered some radical step which should end the war. On February 17, 1778, before the treaty of friendship between the United States and France had been made public, North startled the House of Commons by introducing a bill repealing the tax on tea, renouncing forever the right to tax America, and nullifying those changes in the constitution of Massachusetts which had so rankled in the minds of its people. A commission with full powers to negotiate peace would proceed at once to America and it might suspend at its discretion, and thus really repeal, any act touching America passed since 1763.
North had taken a sharp turn. The Whig clothes had been stolen by a Tory Prime Minister and if he wished to stay in office the Whigs had not the votes to turn him out. His supporters would accept almost anything in order to dish the Whigs. They swallowed now the bill, and it became law, but at the same time came, too, the war with France. It united the Tories; it divided the Whigs. All England was deeply stirred. Nearly every important town offered to raise volunteer forces at its own expense. The Government soon had fifteen thousand men recruited at private cost. Help was offered so freely that the Whig, John Wilkes, actually introduced into Parliament a bill to prohibit gifts of money to the Crown since this voluntary taxation gave the Crown money without the consent of Parliament. The British patriot, gentle as he might be towards America, fumed against France. This was no longer only a domestic struggle between parties, but a war with an age-long foreign enemy. The populace resented what they called the insolence and the treachery of France and the French ambassador was pelted at Canterbury as he drove to the seacoast on his recall. In a large sense the French alliance was not an unmixed blessing for America, since it confused the counsels of her best friends in England.
In spite of this it is probably true that from this time the mass of the English people were against further attempts to coerce America. A change of ministry was urgently demanded. There was one leader to whom the nation looked in this grave crisis. The genius of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, had won the last war against France and he had promoted the repeal of the Stamp Act. In America his name was held in reverence so high that New York and Charleston had erected statues in his honor. When the defeat of Burgoyne so shook the ministry that North was anxious to retire, Chatham, but for two obstacles, could probably have formed a ministry. One obstacle was his age; as the event proved, he was near his end. It was, however, not this which kept him from office, but the resolve of George III. The King simply said that he would not have Chatham. In office Chatham would certainly rule and the King intended himself to rule. If Chatham would come in a subordinate position, well; but Chatham should not lead. The King declared that as long as even ten men stood by him he would hold out and he would lose his crown rather than call to office that clamorous Opposition which had attacked his American policy. "I will never consent," he said firmly, "to removing the members of the present Cabinet from my service." He asked North: "Are you resolved at the hour of danger to desert me?" North remained in office. Chatham soon died and, during four years still, George III was master of England. Throughout the long history of that nation there is no crisis in which one man took a heavier and more disastrous responsibility.
News came to Valley Forge of the alliance with France and there were great rejoicings. We are told that, to celebrate the occasion, Washington dined in public. We are not given the bill of fare in that scene of famine; but by the springtime tension in regard to supplies had been relieved and we may hope that Valley Forge really feasted in honor of the great event. The same news brought gloom to the British in Philadelphia, for it had the stern meaning that the effort and loss involved in the capture of that city were in vain. Washington held most of the surrounding country so that supplies must come chiefly by sea. With a French fleet and a French army on the way to America, the British realized that they must concentrate their defenses. Thus the cheers at Valley Forge were really the sign that the British must go.
Sir William Howe, having taken Philadelphia, was determined not to be the one who should give it up. Feeling was bitter in England over the ghastly failure of Burgoyne, and he had gone home on parole to defend himself from his seat in the House of Commons. There Howe had a seat and he, too, had need to be on hand. Lord George Germain had censured him for his course and, to shield himself; was clearly resolved to make scapegoats of others. So, on May 18, 1778, at Philadelphia there was a farewell to Howe, which took the form of a Mischianza, something approaching the medieval tournament. Knights broke lances in honor of fair ladies, there were arches and flowers and fancy costumes, and high-flown Latin and French, all in praise of the departing Howe. Obviously the garrison of Philadelphia had much time on its hands and could count upon, at least, some cheers from a friendly population. It is remembered still, with moralizings on the turns in human fortune, that Major Andre and Miss Margaret Shippen were the leaders in that gay scene, the one, in the days to come, to be hanged by Washington as a spy, because entrapped in the treason of Benedict Arnold, who became the husband of the other.
On May 24, 1778, Sir Henry Clinton took over from Howe the command of the British army in America and confronted a difficult problem. If d'Estaing, the French admiral, should sail straight for the Delaware he might destroy the fleet of little more than half his strength which lay there, and might quickly starve Philadelphia into surrender. The British must unite their forces to meet the peril from France, and New York, as an island, was the best point for a defense, chiefly naval. A move to New York was therefore urgent. It was by sea that the British had come to Philadelphia, but it was not easy to go away by sea. There was not room in the transports for the army and its encumbrances. Moreover, to embark the whole force, a march of forty miles to New Castle, on the lower Delaware, would be necessary and the retreating army was sure to be harassed on its way by Washington. It would besides hardly be safe to take the army by sea for the French fleet might be strong enough to capture the flotilla.
There was nothing for it but, at whatever risk, to abandon Philadelphia and march the army across New Jersey. It would be possible to take by sea the stores and the three thousand Loyalists from Philadelphia, some of whom would probably be hanged if they should be taken. Lord Howe, the naval commander, did his part in a masterly manner. On the 18th of June the British army marched out of Philadelphia and before the day was over it was across the Delaware on the New Jersey side. That same day Washington's army, free from its long exile at Valley Forge, occupied the capital. Clinton set out on his long march by land and Howe worked his laden ships down the difficult river to its mouth and, after delay by winds, put to sea on the 28th of June. By a stroke of good fortune he sailed the two hundred miles to New York in two days and missed the great fleet of d'Estaing, carrying an army of four thousand men. On the 8th of July d'Estaing anchored at the mouth of the Delaware. Had not his passage been unusually delayed and Howe's unusually quick, as Washington noted, the British fleet and the transports in the Delaware would probably have been taken and Clinton and his army would have shared the fate of Burgoyne.
As it was, though Howe's fleet was clear away, Clinton's army had a bad time in the march across New Jersey. Its baggage train was no less than twelve miles long and, winding along roads leading sometimes through forests, was peculiarly vulnerable to flank attack. In this type of warfare Washington excelled. He had fought over this country and he knew it well. The tragedy of Valley Forge was past. His army was now well trained and well supplied. He had about the same number of men as the British—perhaps sixteen thousand—and he was not encumbered by a long baggage train. Thus it happened that Washington was across the Delaware almost as soon as the British. He marched parallel with them on a line some five miles to the north and was able to forge towards the head of their column. He could attack their flank almost when he liked. Clinton marched with great difficulty. He found bridges down. Not only was Washington behind him and on his flank but General Gates was in front marching from the north to attack him when he should try to cross the Raritan River. The long British column turned southeastward toward Sandy Hook, so as to lessen the menace from Gates. Between the half of the army in the van and the other half in the rear was the baggage train.
The crisis came on Sunday the 28th of June, a day of sweltering heat. By this time General Charles Lee, Washington's second in command, was in a good position to attack the British rear guard from the north, while Washington, marching three miles behind Lee, was to come up in the hope of overwhelming it from the rear. Clinton's position was difficult but he was saved by Lee's ineptitude. He had positive instructions to attack with his five thousand men and hold the British engaged until Washington should come up in overwhelming force. The young La Fayette was with Lee. He knew what Washington had ordered, but Lee said to him: "You don't know the British soldiers; we cannot stand against them." Lee's conduct looks like deliberate treachery. Instead of attacking the British he allowed them to attack him. La Fayette managed to send a message to Washington in the rear; Washington dashed to the front and, as he came up, met soldiers flying from before the British. He rode straight to Lee, called him in flaming anger a "damned poltroon," and himself at once took command. There was a sharp fight near Monmouth Court House. The British were driven back and only the coming of night ended the struggle. Washington was preparing to renew it in the morning, but Clinton had marched away in the darkness. He reached the coast on the 30th of June, having lost on the way fifty-nine men from sunstroke, over three hundred in battle, and a great many more by desertion. The deserters were chiefly Germans, enticed by skillful offers of land. Washington called for a reckoning from Lee. He was placed under arrest, tried by court-martial, found guilty, and suspended from rank for twelve months. Ultimately he was dismissed from the American army, less it appears for his conduct at Monmouth than for his impudent demeanor toward Congress afterwards.
These events on land were quickly followed by stirring events on the sea. The delays of the British Admiralty of this time seem almost incredible. Two hundred ships waited at Spithead for three months for convoy to the West Indies, while all the time the people of the West Indies, cut off from their usual sources of supply in America, were in distress for food. Seven weeks passed after d'Estaing had sailed for America, before the Admiralty knew that he was really gone and sent Admiral Byron, with fourteen ships, to the aid of Lord Howe. When d'Estaing was already before New York Byron was still battling with storms in mid-Atlantic, storms so severe that his fleet was entirely dispersed and his flagship was alone when it reached Long Island on the 18th of August.
Meanwhile the French had a great chance. On the 11th of July their fleet, much stronger than the British, arrived from the Delaware, and anchored off Sandy Hook. Admiral Howe knew his danger. He asked for volunteers from the merchant ships and the sailors offered themselves almost to a man. If d'Estaing could beat Howe's inferior fleet, the transports at New York would be at his mercy and the British army, with no other source of supply, must surrender. Washington was near, to give help on land. The end of the war seemed not far away. But it did not come. The French admirals were often taken from an army command, and d'Estaing was not a sailor but a soldier. He feared the skill of Howe, a really great sailor, whose seven available ships were drawn up in line at Sandy Hook so that their guns bore on ships coming in across the bar. D'Estaing hovered outside. Pilots from New York told him that at high tide there were only twenty-two feet of water on the bar and this was not enough for his great ships, one of which carried ninety-one guns. On the 22d of July there was the highest of tides with, in reality, thirty feet of water on the bar, and a wind from the northeast which would have brought d'Estaing's ships easily through the channel into the harbor. The British expected the hottest naval fight in their history. At three in the afternoon d'Estaing moved but it was to sail away out of sight.
Opportunity, though once spurned, seemed yet to knock again. The one other point held by the British was Newport, Rhode Island. Here General Pigot had five thousand men and only perilous communications by sea with New York. Washington, keenly desirous to capture this army, sent General Greene to aid General Sullivan in command at Providence, and d'Estaing arrived off Newport to give aid. Greene had fifteen hundred fine soldiers, Sullivan had nine thousand New England militia, and d'Estaing four thousand French regulars. A force of fourteen thousand five hundred men threatened five thousand British. But on the 9th of August Howe suddenly appeared near Newport with his smaller fleet. D'Estaing put to sea to fight him, and a great naval battle was imminent, when a terrific storm blew up and separated and almost shattered both fleets. D'Estaing then, in spite of American protests, insisted on taking the French ships to Boston to refit and with them the French soldiers. Sullivan publicly denounced the French admiral as having basely deserted him and his own disgusted yeomanry left in hundreds for their farms to gather in the harvest. In September, with d'Estaing safely away, Clinton sailed into Newport with five thousand men. Washington's campaign against Rhode Island had failed completely.
The summer of 1778 thus turned out badly for Washington. Help from France which had aroused such joyous hopes in America had achieved little and the allies were hurling reproaches at each other. French and American soldiers had riotous fights in Boston and a French officer was killed. The British, meanwhile, were landing at small ports on the coast, which had been the haunts of privateers, and were not only burning shipping and stores but were devastating the country with Loyalist regiments recruited in America. The French told the Americans that they were expecting too much from the alliance, and the cautious Washington expressed fear that help from outside would relax effort at home. Both were right. By the autumn the British had been reinforced and the French fleet had gone to the West Indies. Truly the mountain in labor of the French alliance seemed to have brought forth only a ridiculous mouse. None the less was it to prove, in the end, the decisive factor in the struggle.
The alliance with France altered the whole character of the war, which ceased now to be merely a war in North America. France soon gained an ally in Europe. Bourbon Spain had no thought of helping the colonies in rebellion against their king, and she viewed their ambitions to extend westward with jealous concern, since she desired for herself both sides of the Mississippi. Spain, however, had a grievance against Britain, for Britain would not yield Gibraltar, that rocky fragment of Spain commanding the entrance to the Mediterranean which Britain had wrested from her as she had wrested also Minorca and Florida. So, in April, 1779, Spain joined France in war on Great Britain. France agreed not only to furnish an army for the invasion of England but never to make peace until Britain had handed back Gibraltar. The allies planned to seize and hold the Isle of Wight. England has often been threatened and yet has been so long free from the tramp of hostile armies that we are tempted to dismiss lightly such dangers. But in the summer of 1779 the danger was real. Of warships carrying fifty guns or more France and Spain together had one hundred and twenty-one, while Britain had seventy. The British Channel fleet for the defense of home coasts numbered forty ships of the line while France and Spain together had sixty-six. Nor had Britain resources in any other quarter upon which she could readily draw. In the West Indies she had twenty-one ships of the line while France had twenty-five. The British could not find comfort in any supposed superiority in the structure of their ships. Then and later, as Nelson admitted when he was fighting Spain, the Spanish ships were better built than the British.
Lurking in the background to haunt British thought was the growing American navy. John Paul was a Scots sailor, who had been a slave trader and subsequently master of a West India merchantman, and on going to America had assumed the name of Jones. He was a man of boundless ambition, vanity, and vigor, and when he commanded American privateers he became a terror to the maritime people from whom he sprang. In the summer of 1779 when Jones, with a squadron of four ships, was haunting the British coasts, every harbor was nervous. At Plymouth a boom blocked the entrance, but other places had not even this defense. Sir Walter Scott has described how, on September 17, 1779, a squadron, under John Paul Jones, came within gunshot of Leith, the port of Edinburgh. The whole surrounding country was alarmed, since for two days the squadron had been in sight beating up the Firth of Forth. A sudden squall, which drove Jones back, probably saved Edinburgh from being plundered. A few days later Jones was burning ships in the Humber and, on the 23d of September, he met off Flamborough Head and, after a desperate fight, captured two British armed ships: the Serapis, a 40-gun vessel newly commissioned, and the Countess of Scarborough, carrying 20 guns, both of which were convoying a fleet. The fame of his exploit rang through Europe. Jones was a regularly commissioned officer in the navy of the United States, but neutral powers, such as Holland, had not yet recognized the republic and to them there was no American navy. The British regarded him as a traitor and pirate and might possibly have hanged him had he fallen into their hands.
Terrible days indeed were these for distracted England. In India, France, baulked twenty years earlier, was working for her entire overthrow, and in North Africa, Spain was using the Moors to the same end. As time passed the storm grew more violent. Before the year 1780 ended Holland had joined England's enemies. Moreover, the northern states of Europe, angry at British interference on the sea with their trade, and especially at her seizure of ships trying to enter blockaded ports, took strong measures. On March 8, 1780, Russia issued a proclamation declaring that neutral ships must be allowed to come and go on the sea as they liked. They might be searched by a nation at war for arms and ammunition but for nothing else. It would moreover be illegal to declare a blockade of a port and punish neutrals for violating it, unless their ships were actually caught in an attempt to enter the port. Denmark and Sweden joined Russia in what was known as the Armed Neutrality and promised that they would retaliate upon any nation which did not respect the conditions laid down.
In domestic affairs Great Britain was divided. The Whigs and Tories were carrying on a warfare shameless beyond even the bitter partisan strife of later days. In Parliament the Whigs cheered at military defeats which might serve to discredit the Tory Government. The navy was torn by faction. When, in 1778, the Whig Admiral Keppel fought an indecisive naval battle off Ushant and was afterwards accused by one of his officers, Sir Hugh Palliser, of not pressing the enemy hard enough, party passion was invoked. The Whigs were for Keppel, the Tories for Palliser, and the London mob was Whig. When Keppel was acquitted there were riotous demonstrations; the house of Palliser was wrecked, and he himself barely escaped with his life. Whig naval officers declared that they had no chance of fair treatment at the hands of a Tory Admiralty, and Lord Howe, among others, now refused to serve. For a time British supremacy on the sea disappeared and it was only regained in April, 1782, when the Tory Admiral Rodney won a great victory in the West Indies against the French.
A spirit of violence was abroad in England. The disabilities of the Roman Catholics were a gross scandal. They might not vote or hold public office. Yet when, in 1780, Parliament passed a bill removing some of their burdens dreadful riots broke out in London. A fanatic, Lord George Gordon, led a mob to Westminster and, as Dr. Johnson expressed it, "insulted" both Houses of Parliament. The cowed ministry did nothing to check the disturbance. The mob burned Newgate jail, released the prisoners from this and other prisons, and made a deliberate attempt to destroy London by fire. Order was restored under the personal direction of the King, who, with all his faults, was no coward. At the same time the Irish Parliament, under Protestant lead, was making a Declaration of Independence which, in 1782, England was obliged to admit by formal act of Parliament. For the time being, though the two monarchies had the same king, Ireland, in name at least, was free of England.
Washington's enemy thus had embarrassments enough. Yet these very years, 1779 and 1780, were the years in which he came nearest to despair. The strain of a great movement is not in the early days of enthusiasm, but in the slow years when idealism is tempered by the strife of opinion and self-interest which brings delay and disillusion. As the war went on recruiting became steadily more difficult. The alliance with France actually worked to discourage it since it was felt that the cause was safe in the hands of this powerful ally. Whatever Great Britain's difficulties about finance they were light compared with Washington's. In time the "continental dollar" was worth only two cents. Yet soldiers long had to take this money at its face value for their pay, with the result that the pay for three months would scarcely buy a pair of boots. There is little wonder that more than once Washington had to face formidable mutiny among his troops. The only ones on whom he could rely were the regulars enlisted by Congress and carefully trained. The worth of the militia, he said, "depends entirely on the prospects of the day; if favorable, they throng to you; if not, they will not move." They played a chief part in the prosperous campaign of 1777, when Burgoyne was beaten. In the next year, before Newport, they wholly failed General Sullivan and deserted shamelessly to their homes.
By 1779 the fighting had shifted to the South. Washington personally remained in the North to guard the Hudson and to watch the British in New York. He sent La Fayette to France in January, 1779, there to urge not merely naval but military aid on a great scale. La Fayette came back after an absence of a little over a year and in the end France promised eight thousand men who should be under Washington's control as completely as if they were American soldiers. The older nation accepted the principle that the officers in the younger nation which she was helping should rank in their grade before her own. It was a magnanimity reciprocated nearly a century and a half later when a great American army in Europe was placed under the supreme command of a Marshal of France.
CHAPTER IX. THE WAR IN THE SOUTH
After 1778 there was no more decisive fighting in the North. The British plan was to hold New York and keep there a threatening force, but to make the South henceforth the central arena of the war. Accordingly, in 1779, they evacuated Rhode Island and left the magnificent harbor of Newport to be the chief base for the French fleet and army in America. They also drew in their posts on the Hudson and left Washington free to strengthen West Point and other defenses by which he was blocking the river. Meanwhile they were striking staggering blows in the South. On December 29, 1778, a British force landed two miles below Savannah, in Georgia, lying near the mouth of the important Savannah River, and by nightfall, after some sharp fighting, took the place with its stores and shipping. Augusta, the capital of Georgia, lay about a hundred and twenty-five miles up the river. By the end of February, 1779, the British not only held Augusta but had established so strong a line of posts in the interior that Georgia seemed to be entirely under their control.
Then followed a singular chain of events. Ever since hostilities had begun, in 1775, the revolutionary party had been dominant in the South. Yet now again in 1779 the British flag floated over the capital of Georgia. Some rejoiced and some mourned. Men do not change lightly their political allegiance. Probably Boston was the most completely revolutionary of American towns. Yet even in Boston there had been a sad procession of exiles who would not turn against the King. The South had been more evenly divided. Now the Loyalists took heart and began to assert themselves.
When the British seemed secure in Georgia bands of Loyalists marched into the British camp in furious joy that now their day was come, and gave no gentle advice as to the crushing of rebellion. Many a patriot farmhouse was now destroyed and the hapless owner either killed or driven to the mountains to live as best he could by hunting. Sometimes even the children were shot down. It so happened that a company of militia captured a large band of Loyalists marching to Augusta to support the British cause. Here was the occasion for the republican patriots to assert their principles. To them these Loyalists were guilty of treason. Accordingly seventy of the prisoners were tried before a civil court and five of them were hanged. For this hanging of prisoners the Loyalists, of course, retaliated in kind. Both the British and American regular officers tried to restrain these fierce passions but the spirit of the war in the South was ruthless. To this day many a tale of horror is repeated and, since Loyalist opinion was finally destroyed, no one survived to apportion blame to their enemies. It is probable that each side matched the other in barbarity.
The British hoped to sweep rapidly through the South, to master it up to the borders of Virginia, and then to conquer that breeding ground of revolution. In the spring of 1779 General Prevost marched from Georgia into South Carolina. On the 12th of May he was before Charleston demanding surrender. We are astonished now to read that, in response to Prevost's demand, a proposal was made that South Carolina should be allowed to remain neutral and that at the end of the war it should join the victorious side. This certainly indicates a large body of opinion which was not irreconcilable with Great Britain and seems to justify the hope of the British that the beginnings of military success might rally the mass of the people to their side. For the moment, however, Charleston did not surrender. The resistance was so stiff that Prevost had to raise the siege and go back to Savannah.
Suddenly, early in September, 1779, the French fleet under d'Estaing appeared before Savannah. It had come from the West Indies, partly to avoid the dreaded hurricane season of the autumn in those waters. The British, practically without any naval defense, were confronted at once by twenty-two French ships of the line, eleven frigates, and many transports carrying an army. The great flotilla easily got rid of the few British ships lying at Savannah. An American army, under General Lincoln, marched to join d'Estaing. The French landed some three thousand men, and the combined army numbered about six thousand. A siege began which, it seemed, could end in only one way. Prevost, however, with three thousand seven hundred men, nearly half of them sick, was defiant, and on the 9th of October the combined French and American armies made a great assault. They met with disaster. D'Estaing was severely wounded. With losses of some nine hundred killed and wounded in the bitter fighting the assailants drew off and soon raised the siege. The British losses were only fifty-four. In the previous year French and Americans fighting together had utterly failed. Now they had failed again and there was bitter recrimination between the defeated allies. D'Estaing sailed away and soon lost some of his ships in a violent storm. Ill-fortune pursued him to the end. He served no more in the war and in the Reign of Terror in Paris, in 1794, he perished on the scaffold.
At Charleston the American General Lincoln was in command with about six thousand men. The place, named after King Charles II, had been a center of British influence before the war. That critical traveler, Lord Adam Gordon, thought its people clever in business, courteous, and hospitable. Most of them, he says, made a visit to England at some time during life and it was the fashion to send there the children to be educated. Obviously Charleston was fitted to be a British rallying center in the South; yet it had remained in American hands since the opening of the war. In 1776 Sir Henry Clinton, the British Commander, had woefully failed in his assault on Charleston. Now in December, 1779, he sailed from New York to make a renewed effort. With him were three of his best officer—Cornwallis, Simcoe, and Tarleton, the last two skillful leaders of irregulars, recruited in America and used chiefly for raids. The wintry voyage was rough; one of the vessels laden with cannon foundered and sank, and all the horses died. But Clinton reached Charleston and was able to surround it on the landward side with an army at least ten thousand strong. Tarleton's irregulars rode through the country. It is on record that he marched sixty-four miles in twenty-three hours and a hundred and five miles in fifty-four hours. Such mobility was irresistible. On the 12th of April, after a ride of thirty miles, Tarleton surprised, in the night, three regiments of American cavalry regulars at a place called Biggin's Bridge, routed them completely and, according to his own account, with the loss of three men wounded, carried off a hundred prisoners, four hundred horses, and also stores and ammunition. There is no doubt that Tarleton's dragoons behaved with great brutality and it would perhaps have taught a needed lesson if, as was indeed threatened by a British officer, Major Ferguson, a few of them had been shot on the spot for these outrages. Tarleton's dashing attacks isolated Charleston and there was nothing for Lincoln to do but to surrender. This he did on the 12th of May. Burgoyne seemed to have been avenged. The most important city in the South had fallen. "We look on America as at our feet," wrote Horace Walpole. The British advanced boldly into the interior. On the 29th of May Tarleton attacked an American force under Colonel Buford, killed over a hundred men, carried off two hundred prisoners, and had only twenty-one casualties. It is such scenes that reveal the true character of the war in the South. Above all it was a war of hard riding, often in the night, of sudden attack, and terrible bloodshed.
After the fall of Charleston only a few American irregulars were to be found in South Carolina. It and Georgia seemed safe in British control. With British successes came the problem of governing the South. On the royalist theory, the recovered land had been in a state of rebellion and was now restored to its true allegiance. Every one who had taken up arms against the King was guilty of treason with death as the penalty. Clinton had no intention of applying this hard theory, but he was returning to New York and he had to establish a government on some legal basis. During the first years of the war, Loyalists who would not accept the new order had been punished with great severity. Their day had now come. Clinton said that "every good man" must be ready to join in arms the King's troops in order "to reestablish peace and good government." "Wicked and desperate men" who still opposed the King should be punished with rigor and have their property confiscated. He offered pardon for past offenses, except to those who had taken part in killing Loyalists "under the mock forms of justice." No one was henceforth to be exempted from the active duty of supporting the King's authority.
Clinton's proclamation was very disturbing to the large element in South Carolina which did not desire to fight on either side. Every one must now be for or against the King, and many were in their secret hearts resolved to be against him. There followed an orgy of bloodshed which discredits human nature. The patriots fled to the mountains rather than yield and, in their turn, waylaid and murdered straggling Loyalists. Under pressure some republicans would give outward compliance to royal government, but they could not be coerced into a real loyalty. It required only a reverse to the King's forces to make them again actively hostile. To meet the difficult situation Congress now made a disastrous blunder. On June 13, 1780, General Gates, the belauded victor at Saratoga, was given the command in the South.
Camden, on the Wateree River, lies inland from Charleston about a hundred and twenty-five miles as the crow flies. The British had occupied it soon after the fall of Charleston, and it was now held by a small force under Lord Rawdon, one of the ablest of the British commanders. Gates had superior numbers and could probably have taken Camden by a rapid movement; but the man had no real stomach for fighting. He delayed until, on the 14th of August, Cornwallis arrived at Camden with reinforcements and with the fixed resolve to attack Gates before Gates attacked him. On the early morning of the 16th of August, Cornwallis with two thousand men marching northward between swamps on both flanks, met Gates with three thousand marching southward, each of them intending to surprise the other. A fierce struggle followed. Gates was completely routed with a thousand casualties, a thousand prisoners, and the loss of nearly the whole of his guns and transport. The fleeing army was pursued for twenty miles by the relentless Tarleton. General Kalb, who had done much to organize the American army, was killed. The enemies of Gates jeered at his riding away with the fugitives and hardly drawing rein until after four days he was at Hillsborough, two hundred miles away. His defense was that he "proceeded with all possible despatch," which he certainly did, to the nearest point where he could reorganize his forces. His career was, however, ended. He was deprived of his command, and Washington appointed to succeed him General Nathanael Greene.
In spite of the headlong flight of Gates the disaster at Camden had only a transient effect. The war developed a number of irregular leaders on the American side who were never beaten beyond recovery, no matter what might be the reverses of the day. The two most famous are Francis Marion and Thomas Sumter. Marion, descended from a family of Huguenot exiles, was slight in frame and courteous in manner; Sumter, tall, powerful, and rough, was the vigorous frontiersman in type. Threatened men live long: Sumter died in 1832, at the age of ninety-six, the last surviving general of the Revolution. Both men had had prolonged experience in frontier fighting against the Indians. Tarleton called Marion the "old swamp fox" because he often escaped through using by-paths across the great swamps of the country. British communications were always in danger. A small British force might find itself in the midst of a host which had suddenly come together as an army, only to dissolve next day into its elements of hardy farmers, woodsmen, and mountaineers.
After the victory at Camden Cornwallis advanced into North Carolina, and sent Major Ferguson, one of his most trusted officers, with a force of about a thousand men, into the mountainous country lying westward, chiefly to secure Loyalist recruits. If attacked in force Ferguson was to retreat and rejoin his leader. The Battle of King's Mountain is hardly famous in the annals of the world, and yet, in some ways, it was a decisive event. Suddenly Ferguson found himself beset by hostile bands, coming from the north, the south, the east, and the west. When, in obedience to his orders, he tried to retreat he found the way blocked, and his messages were intercepted, so that Cornwallis was not aware of the peril. Ferguson, harassed, outnumbered, at last took refuge on King's Mountain, a stony ridge on the western border between the two Carolinas. The north side of the mountain was a sheer impassable cliff and, since the ridge was only half a mile long, Ferguson thought that his force could hold it securely. He was, however, fighting an enemy deadly with the rifle and accustomed to fire from cover. The sides and top of King's Mountain were wooded and strewn with boulders. The motley assailants crept up to the crest while pouring a deadly fire on any of the defenders who exposed themselves. Ferguson was killed and in the end his force surrendered, on October 7, 1780, with four hundred casualties and the loss of more than seven hundred prisoners. The American casualties were eighty-eight. In reprisal for earlier acts on the other side, the victors insulted the dead body of Ferguson and hanged nine of their prisoners on the limb of a great tulip tree. Then the improvised army scattered.*
* See Chapter IX, "Pioneers of the Old Southwest", by Constance Lindsay Skinner in "The Chronicles of America."
While the conflict for supremacy in the South was still uncertain, in the Northwest the Americans made a stroke destined to have astounding results. Virginia had long coveted lands in the valleys of the Ohio and the Mississippi. It was in this region that Washington had first seen active service, helping to wrest that land from France. The country was wild. There was almost no settlement; but over a few forts on the upper Mississippi and in the regions lying eastward to the Detroit River there was that flicker of a red flag which meant that the Northwest was under British rule. George Rogers Clark, like Washington a Virginian land surveyor, was a strong, reckless, brave frontiersman. Early in 1778 Virginia gave him a small sum of money, made him a lieutenant colonel, and authorized him to raise troops for a western adventure. He had less than two hundred men when he appeared a little later at Kaskaskia near the Mississippi in what is now Illinois and captured the small British garrison, with the friendly consent of the French settlers about the fort. He did the same thing at Cahokia, farther up the river. The French scattered through the western country naturally sided with the Americans, fighting now in alliance with France. The British sent out a force from Detroit to try to check the efforts of Clark, but in February, 1779, the indomitable frontiersman surprised and captured this force at Vincennes on the Wabash. Thus did Clark's two hundred famished and ragged men take possession of the Northwest, and, when peace was made, this vast domain, an empire in extent, fell to the United States. Clark's exploit is one of the pregnant romances of history. *
* See Chapters III and IV in "The Old Northwest" by Frederic Austin Ogg in "The Chronicles of America".
Perhaps the most sorrowful phase of the Revolution was the internal conflict waged between its friends and its enemies in America, where neighbor fought against neighbor. During this pitiless struggle the strength of the Loyalists tended steadily to decline; and they came at last to be regarded everywhere by triumphant revolution as a vile people who should bear the penalties of outcasts. In this attitude towards them Boston had given a lead which the rest of the country eagerly followed. To coerce Loyalists local committees sprang up everywhere. It must be said that the Loyalists gave abundant provocation. They sneered at rebel officers of humble origin as convicts and shoeblacks. There should be some fine hanging, they promised, on the return of the King's men to Boston. Early in the Revolution British colonial governors, like Lord Dunmore of Virginia, adopted the policy of reducing the rebels by harrying their coasts. Sailors would land at night from ships and commit their ravages in the light of burning houses. Soldiers would dart out beyond the British lines, burn a village, carry off some Whig farmers, and escape before opposing forces could rally. Governor Tryon of New York was specially active in these enterprises and to this day a special odium attaches to his name.
For these ravages, and often with justice, the Loyalists were held responsible. The result was a bitterness which fired even the calm spirit of Benjamin Franklin and led him when the day came for peace to declare that the plundering and murdering adherents of King George were the ones who should pay for damage and not the States which had confiscated Loyalist property. Lists of Loyalist names were sometimes posted and then the persons concerned were likely to be the victims of any one disposed to mischief. Sometimes a suspected Loyalist would find an effigy hung on a tree before his own door with a hint that next time the figure might be himself. A musket ball might come whizzing through his window. Many a Loyalist was stripped, plunged in a barrel of tar, and then rolled in feathers, taken sometimes from his own bed.
Punishment for loyalism was not, however, left merely to chance. Even before the Declaration of Independence, Congress, sitting itself in a city where loyalism was strong, urged the States to act sternly in repressing Loyalist opinion. They did not obey every urging of Congress as eagerly as they responded to this one. In practically every State Test Acts were passed and no one was safe who did not carry a certificate that he was free of any suspicion of loyalty to King George. Magistrates were paid a fee for these certificates and thus had a golden reason for insisting that Loyalists should possess them. To secure a certificate the holder must forswear allegiance to the King and promise support to the State at war with him. An unguarded word even about the value in gold of the continental dollar might lead to the adding of the speaker's name to the list of the proscribed. Legislatures passed bills denouncing Loyalists. The names in Massachusetts read like a list of the leading families of New England. The "Black List" of Pennsylvania contained four hundred and ninety names of Loyalists charged with treason, and Philadelphia had the grim experience of seeing two Loyalists led to the scaffold with ropes around their necks and hanged. Most of the persecuted Loyalists lost all their property and remained exiles from their former homes. The self-appointed committees took in hand the task of disciplining those who did not fly, and the rabble often pushed matters to brutal extremes. When we remember that Washington himself regarded Tories as the vilest of mankind and unfit to live, we can imagine the spirit of mobs, which had sometimes the further incentive of greed for Loyalist property. Loyalists had the experience of what we now call boycotting when they could not buy or sell in the shops and were forced to see their own shops plundered. Mills would not grind their corn. Their cattle were maimed and poisoned. They could not secure payment of debts due to them or, if payment was made, they received it in the debased continental currency at its face value. They might not sue in a court of law, nor sell their property, nor make a will. It was a felony for them to keep arms. No Loyalist might hold office, or practice law or medicine, or keep a school.