Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

As a reward for this treason the latter promised to give him a large sum of money and make him a general in the King's army. An accomplished and popular English officer, Major André, was sent to meet Arnold and complete the bargain. But in trying to regain the British lines, near Tarrytown, André was arrested by some American pickets, and the papers on his person disclosed the wretched plot. He was hanged as a spy, but Arnold escaped to a British warvessel. Twenty-one years later, Arnold, who had in the meantime served as a British general, died in England, disgraced, in poverty, and embittered by remorse. 1

187. John Paul Jones and the privateers. There were plenty of gallant sailors in the American colonies, especially among the New England fishermen, who manned many small vessels; but the regular navy was at first small. Private shipowners were therefore given authority to " distress the enemies of the United States by sea or land,” and to take their pay from the sale of the prizes that they captured. These “ privateers," as they were known, ranged up and down our own coast and into Canadian and West Indian waters, and in their boldness were frequently within sight of the British Isles themselves. They were able to take or destroy hundreds of the enemy's merchant ships, and thus do great damage to his commerce. ?

The most famous of our naval officers was John Paul Jones, who, after a long and exciting career in his little ship

1 It is told that when death approached, he said to his family: “Bring me, I beg you, the epaulettes and sword-knots which Washington gave me; let me die in my old American uniform, the uniform in which I fought my battles. God forgive me for ever putting on any other."

? Massachusetts and Pennsylvania had about five hundred ships each, in this service. It is thought that at one time 70,000 Americans were engaged in the work.

The first captain thus to carry our flag and win prizes within sight of the British coast was Lambert Wickes.

John Barry in the Alliance had numerous fierce encounters with the enemy and successfully cruised on both sides of the Atlantic. Once this stout-hearted patriot, who was a native of Ireland, was offered $100,000 and the command of a British frigate if he would return to the allegiance of the motherland; but he indignantly replied, “Not the value and command of the whole British fleet can seduce me from the cause of my country.”

Ranger, was, after the alliance with France, given charge of five vessels that had been a part of the French navy. His own vessel, the flagship of this fleet, was called Bon Homme Richard. On the evening of September 23, 1779, when off Flamborough Head, in northeastern England, the flagship engaged the British frigate Serapis in a desperate hand-tohand combat. This was one of the most remarkable fights in the history of naval warfare, and lasted until half-past ten at night. It ended in the surrender of the Serapis. Each vessel lost more than half of her men in killed and wounded, and two days later the Bon Homme Richard sank,

having been riddled by THE BON HOMME RICHARD AND THE SERAPIS cannon shot, but The ship at the right is one of Jones's allies. Her captain was accused her crew escaped to the captured English frigate. Jones at once became a popular hero both in France and America. The British, long supposed to be masters of the sea, felt much humiliated at being thus beaten almost within gunshot of their own shores.

188. The British in Georgia and South Carolina. At first the British had tried to conquer New England, but had been driven out. In the Middle Colonies they were not meeting

[graphic]

Painting by Paton

of treacherously firing upon the Bon Homme Richard

1 A pet name given by the French to Franklin, because of his Poor Richard's Almanac, mentioned in note on p. 126.

2 The location of his grave, long unknown, was finally discovered in Paris, in March, 1905. His remains were removed to this country in July following, under an escort of United States war-vessels, and now rest at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

with marked success. In 1778, therefore, they transferred the seat of war to the South, under the charge of Generals Clinton and Cornwallis. The many Loyalists in Georgia and South Carolina hastened to their support, and soon those two States seemed to be completely under British control. It now began to look as though the Americans had lost the entire South, and many half-hearted people in that region hastened to swear allegiance to the King. Clinton now contentedly returned to New York and left Cornwallis in charge.

189. Greene wins victories. Washington, however, did not propose to let the enemy keep the South, so he sent General Gates to take command in that section. But there, as elsewhere, Gates proved inefficient and cowardly, and was badly defeated in a fight at Camden, South Carolina, August 16, 1780.

General Greene succeeded Gates. He was a brilliant soldier, whom many historians place next to Washington in ability. The new commander soon began to win victories for the patriots. Just previous, however, to his arrival in the South, fortune turned in favor of the patriots at King's Mountain, on the border between North and South Carolina. In this battle, October 7, 1780, the hardy frontiersmen of that region stubbornly drove off the enemy.

Another British disaster took place at the Cowpens, in South Carolina, where, on January 17, 1781, General Morgan gallantly captured the greater part of an army headed by Tarleton, one of Cornwallis's best cavalry officers.

Washington now planned to entice the British army northward, if possible, to the seacoast of Virginia, where the French fleet could aid in attacking them. He therefore sent orders to Greene to retreat slowly through North Carolina, and lead the enemy after him. This was so cleverly done that Cornwallis supposed he was driving Greene before him, and several sharp battles were fought between them on the way.

1 The most important of these was at Guilford Court-House, North Carolina (March 15), where Cornwallis lost a fourth of his army, and Greene displayed great courage and efficiency.

190. Marion, Sumter, and “Light-horse HarryLee. While these principal events were in progress, there was also severe fighting, on a smaller scale, at many other points in the South. The Southern frontiersmen, who had neither discipline nor uniforms, and carried the crudest kind of weapons, were called “rangers.

rangers." They fought independently of the Continental army, and their principal leaders were Generals Marion and Sumter. Hiding in swamps, deep forests, or mountain glens, the rangers would suddenly pounce upon the enemy, and after crushing him quickly disappear from view, to be next met, when least expected, at some far-distant point. Their marches were surprisingly rapid, and they suffered great hardships from heat and cold, generally sleeping without cover and often going hungry for days. Stories of their bravery, endurance, and thrilling adventures are still told by the people of Georgia and the Carolinas.

Local cavalry leaders also took a prominent part in Southern campaigns. The most famous of these was Colonel Henry Lee,' known as Light-horse Harry," whose swiftmoving “ legion " did splendid work for Greene.

191. The British surrender at Yorktown. Cornwallis was much annoyed that he could not catch the wary Greene. So he settled down at Yorktown, on a narrow neck of land near the mouth of York River, and sent for reinforcements, which were to come by sea, both from New York and the West Indies. He thought that from this point he might by brilliant dashes easily finish the conquest of the South and thus end the war.

Cornwallis was probably the ablest English general then in America, but he soon learned that the watchful "rebels were more sagacious than he. To his chagrin he found that the gallant and youthful Lafayette had skillfully cut off his retreat by land; and the promised naval aid did not arrive. Instead, there now came to him ominous reports of

1 General Robert E. Lee, the Confederate leader during the Civil War (see page 346), was the son of this Revolutionary soldier.

the approach into Chesapeake Bay of a large fleet of French war-vessels under Count de Grasse.

Meanwhile, Washington, who was still on the Hudson River, made a pretense of preparing to attack Clinton in New York, and thus kept that general at home, busily looking after his defenses. When all was ready the American leader quietly slipped away with a large part of his men, marched southward to the head of Chesapeake Bay, and then sailed on the French vessels to Yorktown, to catch Cornwallis in a trap. It was one of the most brilliant movements in all military history, and had been completed before the unsuspecting Clinton understood what was going on.

The astonished Cornwallis attempted to escape, but in vain, for he was completely hemmed in. The French fleet, now lying off Yorktown, cut off all help that he might expect from the sea; and on the land side there was a hostile army of sixteen thousand men. The brave and determined British general stood out for seventeen days against almost hourly storms of American and French shells and cannonballs. But on October 17, 1781, he was forced to surrender 3

Seldom had soldiers of England been so completely beaten. Washington's small army of villagers and farmers had had little practice in the art of war and lacked proper equipment, clothing, and food, but they had excellent officers, and were fighting for their homes and the freedom of their country, facts which in war always count for a great deal. Without the aid of the French, however, Yorktown could not have been won.

192. News of the surrender. In an early hour of October

1 Clinton hoped to draw Washington back to New York by sending the traitor Arnold to raid towns on the Connecticut coast; but after he had done much damage, local militiamen drove the invaders back to their ships. 2 Americans, nine thousand; French, seven thousand.

3 The story has been told that just before the hour fixed for the British army to come from behind their breastworks and lay down their arms, Washington addressed his soldiers, saying: “My boys, let there be no insults over a conquered foe! When they lay down their arms, don't huzza; posterity will huzza for you!"

« PředchozíPokračovat »