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and at this moment he began what was virtually a retreat, which ended in his surrender at Yorktown in October. The offensive part of his Virginian campaign, therefore, lasted from the 20th of May to the 26th of June. During this period he was his own master, had an admirable army in command, was in full communication with his own fleet, and was marching through a country which afforded sufficient supplies. He was opposed by Lafayette, who was managing with consummate skill an inferior force, which, as he himself said, was not large enough to be beaten. Why in this period Cornwallis did nothing more, is one of the mysteries which his biographer did not solve. We had not a word from Cornwallis during these five weeks; we have not a word now. He marched round “in search of adventures.” It was in this expedition that he used in one of his despatches the phrase “ the boy cannot escape me,” when he thought he had entrapped Lafayette. But “the boy” intercepted the despatch, escaped the Earl's flank attack, and where he was least expected appeared in force before him. After “stealing a little tobacco,” capturing seven Assembly-men, and other such feats, which must have disgusted him as much as similar operations had done in South Carolina, Cornwallis returned to Williamsburg to receive Sir Henry Clinton's orders, as he had promised him he would do. Lafayette said, what was the truth, that he retired before him ; but it is impossible that Lord Cornwallis should have been afraid of his force. We may say in passing, however, that, reading the correspondence now we have both sides, it is evident that Lafayette kept himself admirably informed of Cornwallis's proceedings. He had spies among Cornwallis's own servants, whose information, as we now know, was reliable.
At Williamsburg Cornwallis met his orders, we might say his fatal orders. Here this book might have given us a good deal of information for history, if the editor would have printed the private letters which he seems to have had, as well as the public despatches which Lord Cornwallis published at the time. We only find two short extracts, - enough to show that he was at first undecided, and perhaps out of temper, but not enough to throw much more light on his proceedings. What we know is briefly this. He received a letter from Clinton, written when that officer had just learned of the mutiny of the Pennsylvania line, and of the probability of his being himself attacked at New York. Leaving to Cornwallis the privilege of moving upon Baltimore and Delaware, expressing his regret that he did not favor his own plan for a march upon Philadelphia, he asks him to send him at New York, after reserving all such troops as he needs for his summer operations, two thousand men, or as many of them as he can spare. Cornwallis's answer is printed here, as it was at the time. He does not think well of the attack on Philadelphia ; he says nothing about Baltimore; he says he has examined Yorktown, and that he cannot establish safe posts there, and therefore, as the commander-in-chief had not approved of his own large scale plan of transferring the whole war into Virginia, he determines simply to send the troops he is asked for, and establish his defensive post for the summer at Portsmouth, where our navy-yard is now established. We do not ask our readers to understand the details of this opinion; they will understand its spirit, if we say that it is the answer of a sulky subordinate, disappointed because his own advice has been rejected, and resolved to “obey orders though he break owners.” It does not seem as if Sir Henry Clinton could have satisfied him in any way at this time, unless he were willing to “ abandon New York and bring our whole force into Virginia”; in other words, to surrender the whole of his own plan of operations, in order to sustain the movement, which he had never ordered, of his own second in command.
From this time we begin to get more new letters. But after this time the game was really at an end, although Cornwallis did not know it. He fell back upon Portsmouth, and put his reinforcement for Clinton on board the ships. The American army and Lafayette thought, perfectly naturally, that he was retreating before them. Meanwhile poor Clinton, eager apparently to soothe this petted child whom he had to humor, countermanded his call for the embarkation of any of Cornwallis's men, directed him to keep them all in Virginia, where he said he would take command himself as soon as the hot season was over. Before he came, the whole army were prisoners. Cornwallis had disapproved of Portsmouth as a defensive position, - had gone back to York, which he also disapproved, and which was the place of all others where Lafayette and Washington would have preferred to have him go. Washington's majestic military and naval combination, which he had kept secret almost from his own right hand, had succeeded to a charm, and on the 17th of October, the fourth anniversary of Burgoyne's surrender, Lord Cornwallis, who had never suffered a defeat, was obliged to offer to surrender his whole army to the confederated forces. It was the end of the English dominion over America. The Earl had obeyed his orders, and he had broken his owners.
We do not say what might have been. A contemporary English review, in its study of this same correspondence, tells us “ what was still on the cards.” We do not attempt so much as that, — to solve one or another of the “ifs ” which suggest themselves as we watch this critical closing of the game, and see the queen in a pet move into the very midst of the range of all the castles and knights and bishops of the adversary, too far from her poor paralyzed king for him to rescue her. But we dare say this, and we believe England might study the lesson to advantage, – that England lost that campaign because her Secretary for the Colonies liked the second in command more than he did the commander-in-chief,because that second presumed on that favor, and on his own social rank at home, so far as to take the fatal liberty at Wilmington which no subordinate should have dared to take, and that where such insubordination was possible, victory was of course impossible. Should the reader go a little further, and ask how it was that a Secretary for the Colonies dared so encourage an inferior against his commander, his question is answered in the history of that minister. How was it that a man who had been pronounced unworthy to serve the king in any military capacity, came to be giving the order to the king's generals in America ? When the Secretary of State holds office from the mere favor of his sovereign, in face of the verdict of the most imposing court which can sit in judgment on him, there is no need of asking further as to the fate of that sovereign's army.
Before we leave this subject, we must add a word or two about the two books just now published, which have suggested this review of an old piece of history, for which they have afforded some additional information.
The publication of Lord Cornwallis's letters at the present time has probably been suggested by the interest attached to East Indian affairs. His career in the East Indies was honorable and successful, and to that career the greater part of these volumes is given. We can understand, therefore, that the editor, who is son of Major Ross, Cornwallis's own aid in America, should have looked on the American part, which is after all à history of failure, as an unfortunate piece of drudgery, entailed on him before he could pass to the more exciting narratives of Oriental grandeur. But he went to work upon it in a dogged English way, and has executed it as well, perhaps, as a man can execute any work on a subject which does not interest him, relating to a country in which he is not at home. True, there is a mistake of more or less importance on every page. But many of these errors are due to an attempt at a quite unnecessary degree of nicety in editing. Thus, if he had taken it for granted that his readers had heard of George Washington, he would not have said in a foot-note that Washington was born in England, nor have been obliged to correct that foot-note in the midst of a table of sixty errata. He always falls into the mistake of a man who thinks his hero can do next to no wrong, and the still greater mistake of a writer who thinks that his exclusive authorities are worth more than those which all the world has at hand. One instance of this last delusion is contained in the following passage: —
“Sir Nathaniel Wraxall, in his "Memoirs,' gives a very graphic account of his dining with Lord George Germaine on Sunday, November 25, where he says he heard the account of the surrender of Yorktown. He states that the despatches had arrived at noon that day, and that after dinner Lord George took them out of his pocket and said, “The army has surrendered, and you may peruse the particulars of the capitulation' The story must be entirely false. The despatch (No. 145, dated • London, off Chesapeake, October 29, 1781 ) did not reach London till midnight (it is so marked on the back of the letter), and is to the following effect :- That he, Sir IIenry Clinton, sailed from Sandy Hook October 19, arrived off Cape Clear October 24, where he heard from some persons who had escaped from Yorktown, that on the 17th Lord Cornwallis had proposed to capitulate; and that, as no firing had been subsequently heard, he feared the rumor must be true.
“ Two things are therefore quite clear; that the despatches had not arrived when this dinner is said to have taken place, and that, when they did come, they contained no details of the capitulation.”
This seems all very grand and fine, and as poor Wraxall has no friends, it is very easy to give him the lie direct in this cool way. We observe that the London Quarterly Review alludes to this note, and sweeps away with it Wraxall's story of Lord North’s agitation on receiving the news. “How did Lord North take it?” “ As he would have taken a cannonball in his heart,” replied Lord George. “He opened his arms, exclaiming wildly, as he paced up and down the room for a few minutes, “0 God! it is all over!' words which he repeated many times under the deepest agitation and distress.”
This story of Wraxall's is too good, however, to be lost, — and we are glad to agree with Lord Mahon in accepting it. Mr. Ross's grand indorsement on Clinton's despatch “received at midnight," " so marked on the back of the letter," has nothing to do with Wraxall's correctness. The news of Cornwallis's surrender came through France to England. A French frigate was sent from Yorktown on the 22d of October. She made a very quick run, and her news passed from France to London, where it arrived November 25th. There are printed letters of Walpole's, of Romilly's, and we know not how many other authorities, speaking of it as known on the 25th. Walpole, writing to Horace Mann on the 26th, says, “ The news came yesterday.” The conversation at Lord George Germaine's dinner-party related to news received through France. An allusion to the French Count de Maurepas's knowledge of it introduced the conversation. The skeleton account, by Clinton, of his hearsay news received off Cape Charles (not Cape Clear, as Mr. Ross prints it), may not have been received till midnight at the office it was filed in. But the fuller advices from France had arrived in time for Lord George Germaine's dinner.