« PreviousContinue »
last extremity." While this summons was pending, General Woodford arrived at Charleston with 700 regulars, who had accomplished a march of five hundred miles in twenty-eight days. These added nothing, however, to the strength of the garrison; for nearly the same number of North Carolina militia whose times of service expired during the siege, abandoned the works, and to their eternal disgrace marched off to their respective homes.
On the reception of General Lincoln's answer to the summons, the British batteries were opened, and an assault commenced, which was kept up almost without intermission until the 20th. The fire was returned by the besieged with equal vigour ; but their lines had suffered considerable damage from the large mortars of the enemy, whereas but little impression had been made upon the besiegers. During this interval the enemy had completed their second parallel about six hundred yards in advance of the first. The situation of General Lincoln was now become extremely critical the enemy being in possession of the harbour and of Charleston Neck, there remained but one pass open for his retreat, namely, across the Cooper river and along its eastern bank. His own opinion was decidedly in favour of retreating, but the civil authorities were equally opposed to it: they regarded the loss of their capital with such feelings of horrour, that they could not be brought to see the danger which attended their prolonged defence. The prayers and entreaties of those around him, determined General Lincoln, contrary to his better judgment, to remain. His situation, however, becoming more and more critical, another council of war was called on the 21st, which resulted in the following determi
"As a retreat would be attended with many distressing inconveniences, if not altogether impracticable for the undermentioned causes, to wit, 1. the civil authority is averse to it, and intimated in Council, that if attempted they would counteract the measure-2. It must be performed in face of the enemy, much superiour, across a river three miles broad, in large ships and vessels, the moving of which must be regulated by the wind and tide-3. Could these obstacles be surmounted, we must force our way through a considerable body of the enemy, in full possession of the passes on our route to the Santee, the only road by which we can retreat-4. Supposing us arrived at that river, new and dangerous difficulties are again to be encountered, from the want of boats to cross it, with an army wasted and worn down by action, fatigue and famine, and closely pressed by the enemy:-we advise therefore, that offers of capitulation, before our affairs become more critical, should be made to General Clinton, which may admit of the army's withdrawing, and afford security to the persons and property of the inhabitants." Sir Henry Clinton in the mean time, having received a reinforcement of 3000 men from New-York, and completed his second parallel, rejected the proposed capitulation, and commenced his third parallel within a hundred yards of the American works.
General Lincoln perceiving that all further resistance would be useless, if the enemy succeeded in completing this third parallel which would bring him upon the transverse ditch, determined to make an effort to intercept the progress of his work. For this purpose on the night of the 24th of April, a sortie was made by Lieutenant Colonel Hen
derson, of the South Carolina line, at the head of 200 men, who made a bold attack upon the enemy's advance who were engaged in the work, killed several, and took eleven prisoners; but the enemy were too strong to suffer any impediment from this sally, and no further attempt was made to obstruct their progress. On the 26th, another Council was called to determine the expediency of attempting a retreat, who were unanimously of opinion that it would be im practicable. Fort Moultrie, which had been evacuated by Lieutenant Colonel Pinckney and the greater part of the garrison, immediately after the British fleet had passed it, was now in possession of the enemy: Lord Cornwallis with a portion of the reinforcements had invested the town on the north side of Cooper river; and the enemy were in uncontrolled possession of all the country between the Cooper and the Santee rivers.
Before we proceed with the further operations of the siege, it will be proper to notice some of the movements of the two adverse corps of cavalry; and the attempt which had been made to keep open a passage for retreat. Governour Rutledge having left Mr. Gadsden with half the executive council in the city, had himself quitted it with the other half, for the purpose of collecting the militia and establishing a succession of posts, to secure if possible the retreat of the army at the last moment. He had established two camps, one on the Santee and the other between that and the Cooper river; but neither his zealous exertions, nor his dictatorial power, could bring the mili tia to his standard in any respectable force. To aid the Governour in his efforts, General Lincoln had detached from his weak and inadequate garrison, 300
regulars, who were thought sufficient, with the cavalry and militia, to effect the object of keeping the road open for retreat. In order to counteract these efforts, as well as to complete his investiture of the town, Sir Henry Clinton detached Lieutenant Colonel Webster, with a corps of 1500 men, including Tarleton's legion and Ferguson's riflemen. Finding that the American cavalry still lay at Monk's Corner, Lieutenant Colonel Webster determined upon attempting a surprise, and breaking up the post. With this view on the night of the 14th April, he pushed forward through by paths, and reached the American videttes without discovery. Lieutenant Colonel Tarleton who led the van, was so brisk in his movements that he entered the camp as soon as the videttes, and a vigorous assault was immediately commenced. The American cavalry, though accoutred for action, were soon routed almost without resistance, and with great difficulty Lieutenant Colonel Washington and a part of his troops, saved themselves by an acquaintance with the intricacies of the country. The assailants, having thus obtained possession of the place, committed the most horrible outrages upon the defenseless inhabitants. Attempts were made by some of the British dragoons to ravish several ladies of the first respectability; but to the honour of the officers who commanded, these wreches were promptly apprehended and punished. Our loss, in this affair was considerable : 42 wagons, nearly 200 horses, and a very large quantity of ammunition and stores of various sorts, fell into the hands of the enemy. Seven were killed and 22 wounded: most of the killed were officers, among whom was Major Bernie, of Pulaski's legion, who was wounded in several places and mangled in the
most shocking manner. The treatment which this brave but unfortunate officer experienced, even after he had sued for quarter, was barbarous and cruel in the extreme: he survived his wounds but a few hours, and died reprobating the conduct of the Americans, and execrating the wanton cruelties of the enemy. After gaining possession of this post, Lieutenant Colonel Webster established himself on the Wando, where he was soon joined by Cornwallis.
After the fatal surprise of the American cavalry at Monk's Corner, they withdrew to the north of the Santee, where they were left under the command of Lieutenant Colonel White, of Moylan's regiment.Perceiving the extent to which the foraging parties of Lord Cornwallis, carried their search for supplies, Lieutenant Colonel White determined upon interrupting them; and for this purpose, having ordered boats to meet him at Lenew's ferry, he crossed the Santee, fell upon a foraging party of the enemy which he completely routed, captured a number of prisoners, and retired to the ferry. The boats which had been ordered there for the transportation of his corps to the opposite shore, were not in readiness: Lord Cornwallis, it had obtained information of his movements appears, from a refugee, and despatched Lieutenant Colonel Tarleton with his cavalry to intercept him. White, in momentary expectation of the means of conveyance, remained at the ferry, until Tarleton unexpectedly fell upon him: the issue was as it had been at Monk's Corner; our cavalry were totally routed, thirty or forty were killed and taken, and the rest saved themselves by swimming the river, or plunging into the swamps Lieutenant Colonel Washington, Major Jameson and five or six privates, trusted themselves to