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ATTEMPT ON RHODE ISLAND.
taneously, by land and water, was rendered abortive, by the pilots refusing to take the responsibility of conducting the heavy ships of the French fleet over the bar. D’Estaing, therefore, remained at anchor, four miles off Sandy Hook, till the 22d of July, without effecting any thing more than the capture of some vessels, which, through ignorance of his arrival, fell into his hands. The next attempt of the French admiral was in conjunction with the Americans, on Rhode Island, where the British had a force of six thousand men. General Washington anticipating the design of D’Estaing, Generals Greene and Lafayette were detached with two brigades from the main army, to co-operate with Count d'Estaing and General Sullivan, who was at Providence with a considerable force of New England troops. It was proposed that D’Estaing, with his troops, should make a descent on the south part of the island, and a body of Americans should take possession of the north, while the French squadron was to enter the harbour of Newport, and take or destroy the British shipping. On the 8th of August, the count entered the harbour, but found himself unable to do any material damage. Lord Howe instantly set sail for Rhode Island, and D'Estaing, confiding in his superiority, immediately came out of the harbour to attack him. A violent storm parted the two fleets, and did so much damage that they were rendered totally unfit for action. The French, however, suffered most ; and several of their ships being afterwards attacked singly, by the British, narrowly escaped being taken. On the 20th of August, he returned to Newport, in a very shattered condition, and sailed, two days after, for Boston. General Sullivan had landed, in the mean time, on the northern part of Rhode Island, with ten thousand men. On the 17th of August they began their operations, by erecting batteries, and making their approaches to the British lines. But General Pigot had taken such effectual care to secure himself on the land-side, that without the assistance of a marine force it was impossible to attack him with any probability of success. The conduct of D'Estaing, therefore, who had abandoned them when master of the harbour, gave the greatest disgust to the people of New England, and Sullivan began to think of a retreat ; but the garrison sallied out on him with such violence that it was not without difficulty that he effected it. He had not been long gone, when Sir Henry Clinton arrived with a body of four thousand men; which, had it arrived sooner, would have enabled the British commander to have gained a decisive advantage over him. The success of this expedition had been confidently anticipated,
and its failure caused great chagrin and vexation, which exhibited itself in the New England states and Boston particularly ; this chagrin excited the fears of Washington, and he accordingly addressed letters to Generals Sullivan and Heath, the commandants at Boston, urging them to use their influence to restrain the intemperance of the moment. A letter from the Count d'Estaing, explaining the causes of the failure of the expedition, was received with such marks of esteem that it appears to have quieted all serious mischief. Congress also passed a resolution expressing their approbation of the conduct of the count. Lord Howe, in the mean time, had resigned his command to Admiral Gambier, and General Clinton had returned to New York, leaving his troops under the command of General Grey, with orders to conduct an expedition eastward, as far as Buzzard's Bay. Grey destroyed a number of vessels in Acushnet River, and having reduced Bedford and Fairhaven, re-embarked his troops and sailed to Martha's Vineyard. He soon after returned to New York, and the British army moved up the Hudson in great force, and encamped on both sides of the river; their ships of war maintaining the communication between their columns.
Colonel Baylor, with his cavalry, crossed the Hackensack early on the 27th of September, and took quarters at Herringtown, a small village near New Taupan, where some militia were posted. Lord Cornwallis, on hearing of this movement, formed a plan to cut off both the cavalry and the militia posted in the town. This was effected by a party under General Grey and Colonel Campbell. The militia saved themselves by flight, but the British completely surprised the cavalry, and cut them to pieces.
This act was in some measure retaliated by Colonel Richard Butler, with a detachment of infantry, assisted by Major Lee, with a part of his cavalry, who, falling in with a party of chasseurs and yagers commanded by Count Donop, charged and defeated them, killing ten men, and capturing one officer and eighteen privates.
After completing their forage, the British army returned to New York. Their movement had been designed to cover an expedition against Little Egg Harbour, where they succeeded in destroying works, store-houses, vessels, and merchandise to a large amount. Count Pulaski, who with his legion had been charged with the defence, was completely surprised, through the treachery of a deserter, and a considerable portion of his men were put to the bayonet with circumstances of barbarity very unusual in civilized warfare.
Admiral Byron arrived in New York and took command of the
HALF-PAY FOR LIFE TO THE OFFICERS.
British fleet in September. He afterward sailed in October for Boston, but encountering a severe storm, he took shelter in Rhode Island. Count d'Estaing seized this favourable moment and sailed, on the 3d of November, for the West Indies.
Lafayette, anticipating a war in Europe, was now desirous to return home; and General Washington, actuated not less by personal respect for this distinguished officer than by a regard for the public service, obtained from Congress an unlimited leave of absence for his friend. « The partiality of America for Lafayette was well placed. Never did a foreigner, whose primary attachments to his own country remained undiminished, feel more solicitude for the welfare of another than was unceasingly manifested by this young nobleman for the United States."*
A detachment of the British army, of five thousand men, commanded by General Grant, sailed, early in November, for the West Indies; and during the same month, a second detachment, commanded by Lieutenant-colonel Campbell, escorted by Sir Hyde Parker, was destined for the Southern States.
As Washington perceived that a force sufficient for the defence of New York still remained, the American army was ordered to retire into winter quarters. The main army was cantoned in Connecticut, on both sides of the North River, about West Point, and at Middlebrook. Light troops were stationed near the lines; and the cavalry were widely distributed, at Winchester in Virginia, at Frederick, Maryland, at Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and at Durham, Connecticut. This was done with a view to facility in procuring forage. In the whole distribution of the army, the protection of the country, the security of important points, and a cheap and convenient supply of provisions, were consulted.
The soldiers were again under the necessity of wintering in huts, to which they had in some measure become accustomed. They were better clothed than in the preceding winter, in consequence of the supplies received from France; and their condition on the whole was far more comfortable than during any preceding winter of the war.
Towards the latter end of April, Congress had resolved to grant half-pay for life to the officers in their army, reserving to themselves the privilege of redeeming, at any time they might think proper, this annual stipend, by the payment of a sum equivalent to the halfpay for six years. General Washington had repeatedly urged the necessity of adopting some measure of this sort, that men might find it to their interest to enter into the service. No man was better acquainted with human nature than Washington. He knew that “ with far the greatest part of mankind, interest is the governing principle, and motives of public virtue were not of themselves sufficient to keep the American army together for any extended period. His letters to Congress on this subject are master-strokes of policy, and evince a profoundness of wisdom, which shows how well he knew how to profit by the lessons of experience. The letter which seems to have been the immediate cause of the resolution of Congress, was that of April 21, in which he thus writes : «Men may speculate as they will; they may talk of patriotism; they may draw a few examples from ancient story of great achievements performed by its influence; but whoever builds upon it as a sufficient basis for conducting a long and bloody war, will find himself deceived in the end. We must take the passions of men as nature has given them, and those principles as a guide which are generally the rule of action. I do not mean to exclude altogether the idea of patriotism. I know it exists, and I know it has done much in the present contest; but I will venture to assert, that a great and lasting war can never be supported on this principle alone. It must be aided by a prospect of interest or some reward. For a time it may of itself push men to action, to bear much, to encounter difficulties, but it will not endure unassisted by interest. Without arrogance, or the smallest deviation from truth, it may be said, that no history now extant can furnish an instance of an army's suffering such uncommon hardships as ours has done, and bearing them with the same patience and fortitude. To see men without clothes to cover their nakedness, without blankets to lie on, without shoes, so that their marches might be traced by the blood of their feet, and almost as often without as with provisions, marching through frost and snow, and at Christmas taking up their winter quarters within a day's march of the enemy, without a house or hut to cover them till they could be built, and submitting to all without a murmur, is a mark of patience and obedience, which, in my opinion, can scarcely be paralleled.” Down to the date of this letter, no cartel had been settled for the exchange of prisoners. A few instances of exchange only had taken place, among which were those of Lee for General Prescott, and Major Otho Williams for Major Ackland; but Congress seemed unwilling to agree to any terms, until their former resolution on the subject should be complied with, throwing the blame, however, upon Sir William Howe and his commissioners. Washington, on the contrary, thought the public faith and his own honour pledged, as will be seen by his letter which follows. “It
EXCHANGE OF PRISONERS.
may be thought,” says he, “contrary to our interest to go into an exchange, as the enemy would derive more immediate advantage from it than we should: but on principles of genuine extensive policy, independent of the consideration of compassion and justice, we are under an obligation not to elude it. An event of this kind is the general wish of the country. I know it to be the wish of the army, and it must be the ardent wish of the unhappy sufferers themselves. Should the exchange be deferred till the terms of the last resolve of Congress on the subject are fulfilled, it will be difficult to prevent our being generally accused with a breach of good faith. Speculative minds may consider all our professions as mere professions, or at least, that interest and policy are to be the only arbiters of their validity. I cannot doubt that Congress, in preservation of the public faith and my personal honour, will remove all impediments that now oppose themselves to my engagements, and will authorize me, through commissioners, to settle as extensive and competent a cartel as may appear advantageous and necessary, any resolutions heretofore to the contrary notwithstanding.” This letter produced the effect of relieving Washington in some measure from his unpleasant embarrassment, as Congress soon after resolved that he might proceed in his arrangements for an exchange without excluding those prisoners whose accounts remained unsettled. Commissioners were consequently appointed on both sides; but mutual objections arose to every thing like a general proposal, and the affair was left in its former state.
In the course of this summer, the western country had been the scene of most distressing events; the feuds between the independents and loyalists having raged with peculiar violence in this wild region. The latter complained, probably not without reason, that the rigorous laws enacted against them were enforced with severe aggravations, and many sought an asylum beyond the limits of the colonies. There they found themselves among the Indians, a race always bitterly hostile to the white borderers, and easily excited to the most daring enterprises. Unhappily the passions of the refugees were worked up to such violence, that instead of urging a milder mode of warfare, they stimulated these allies to deeds of more than their wonted barbarity. Wyoming, a flourishing settlement on the Pennsylvania frontier, was suddenly assailed, the slender militia force which defended it overpowered, and the inhabitants exposed to all the horrors of Indian vengeance and massacre. From the lateness of the season, only a few partial attempts could be made to retaliate. Next spring, however, General Sullivan was