much courteous reserve, when the subject is another officer. That he was prepared to counsel with Gates, we can believe, but not that he would volunteer his counselstill less that he would dilate, in free language, in respect to the demerits of his commanding officer, to a couple of young militia colonels, whom he had never seen before, and of whom he knew nothing. The statement is, we doubt not, an invention throughout. But Gates was now driven to an apology to his generals, for the hot haste with which he had marched them away. His starving troops began to be mutinous, and it was necessary to deal with them kindly, and to make fresh promises of rum and rations. To his officers, he now laid all the blame of his march upon General Caswell, for whose safety he affected to be apprehensive, and of whom, by the way, Colonel Williams makes several discreditable statements, on the authority of General Gates. The junction with Caswell was at length effected, on the 7th August, at the Cross Roads, about fifteen miles east of the most advanced British post on Lynch's Creek. The event seemed productive of pleasant effects to all parties. No doubt Caswell brought à supply of rations, and peach and apple brandy served as the substitute for rum. Caswell became third in command, and was assigned the left wing of the army, consisting wholly of militia. The right was DeKalb’s, whose force was wholly regular. The army then advanced upon the British post, which was abandoned before their approach, the garrison retreating to a stronger position, on Little Lynch's Creek, within a day's march of Camden, then strongly fortified and well manned, under Lord Rawdon. Gates continued to advance his columns, in the track pursued by the enemy. He sent off his heavy bag. gage, an enormous train, to Charlotte, with all the camp followers whom he could dismiss, then turned the British post on Little Lynch's Creek, which caused the garrison to abandon it, and retire with precipitation to Camden, where Rawdon had concentrated his whole force, well protected by water-courses and redoubts, and awaited the arrival of Lord Cornwallis, from Charleston, with increase of forces. In respect to Gates, his plans and resources, there is no reason to doubt that the British commanders were well informed with every day's progress, Their emissaries covered this whole region of

country, which had been some time covered by their troops, in numbers quite sufficient to overawe, and, in fact, mostly to disperse the whig inhabitants. The progress of Gates, accordingly, was through a desert. Few persons came in to him, none brought him advices, and his provisions grew more and more scant with every hour of his march. His troops very frequently went with less than half a ration per day, and the food was no less unwholesome than scanty. The militia of North-Carolina were expected, but not waited for. The army marched on, in doubt and exhaustion. At this time, thus rapidly approaching the enemy, the force of General Gates consisted of a single brigade of regular troops, two brigades of militia, and some small corps of artillery and cavalry. He was followed by a brigade of Virginia militia, under Brigadier General Stevens. Marion was below, and Sumter above Camden, and other partizan leaders were everywhere, stirring up the whig population. In fact, the revolutionary portion of the State was on the eve of a general rising. Al that was wanted was time. Time, patience, delay, and eminent caution, would, in a little while, sow the country with armed patriots ; but it was in these very virtues that General Gates had no faith. Had he kept back for a brief season, collected magazines, drilled his troops, inspired them with confidence, and waited for a cooler season, everything might be anticipated for his arms. He was joined at Clermont, on the 14th, by Brigadier Stevens, with his Virginians. On the 15th, an inhabitant of Camden (a Marylander) came into camp, and, by his reports, practised upon the general's credulity, and upon that of nobody else. Instead of being detained, the man was suffered to depart, carrying with him a full knowledge of the strength of the army, and all that was worthy of notice in the camp. Gates, at this time, at the requisition of Sumter, detached to the assistance of that partizan, a body of one hundred regular infantry, two field pieces, and a small party of artillerists, on an enterprise in which—we may state in passing-Sumter was quite successful, though he subsequently, by a too great confidence, lost the fruits of his successes.

Gates did not increase his precautions, or add to his provisions, while he still prepared to press forward. On the night of the 15th he set his army forward, in order of

battle. When he communicated his order of march and battle to the acting adjutant-general, Williams, and gave him a rough estimate of the forces under his command, making them upwards of 7,000, the latter set him right, presenting the field returns from all the corps, and showing the whole number of troops fit for duty to be exactly 3,052. The reply of Gates was quite cavalier, and he concluded by saying that the number was quite sufficient for his purposes.” What those purposes were, unless to beat the enemy or to be beaten, he left to conjecture. The officers murmured, but marched. Complaint was general, but subdued by discipline. Troops and captains felt equally their inadequacy to a struggle with any strong force, under the circumstances ; and that of the British was estimated at more than four thousand men. Their numbers, known to be in Carolina on the 1st of August, were 6,589. How many of these had been concentrated at Camden, under the exigency, may be estimated from a just regard to the military skill and reputation of two such leaders as Cornwallis and Rawdon. As we have said, the progress of the Americans was well known to the British-hetter, indeed, than to the whigs of the country. Williams says,

“The obscure route the army had marched, actually kept their friends ignorant of their movements, and the arrival of General Gates at Clermont was, when known, a subject of more surprise to the patriots than to the enemies of the country. It is probable, and, in the opinion of many, admits of no doubt whatever, that if General Gates had taken a secure position with his army, and waited only a few days, abundance of provisions would have flowed into his camp ; and that, by the addition of volunteers from the Carolinas, he would have acquired scuh a superiority over the British army, which did not much exceed 4,000 men, (6,589, as we have shown from the record,) that he would have found no difficulty in recovering the country, as far as Charleston." But he could not wait, and his troops obeyed his insane impulse. There were no spirits in camp, and, to stimulate their courage and fit them for the field, a gill of molasses was served out to each man, in addition to a full ration of meal and meat. It is wonderful, as the molasses had been taken from the hospital stores, that jalap and senna had not been employed in preference, as more speedy and

certain in their effects. But the molasses served the purpose, upon people who had been half starved for a week before ; and the column of march was broken long before the enemy was felt. When the action began in the morning, many of the men were unable to stand.

Here, then, we find two fatal proceedings—a night march, in column of attack, with a force, half of which had never been in battle, and, ere it is begun, each man is plied with a cathartic-a gill of molasses, in the middle of August.

Meanwhile, Cornwallis had reached Camden, and boldly determined to take the initiative-to march out and meet the Americans in the open field, before they could excite the country, and gather strength by progress. The two columns encountered at midnight. A smart salutation of small arms, from both sides, followed the meeting, and the result was full of evil auguries to the Americans. “Some of the cavalry of Armand's legion retreated, and threw the whole corps into disorder. Recoiling upon the front of the infantry, it threw the first Maryland brigade into disorder, and occasioned a general consternation through the whole line of the army. The light infantry, under Porterfield, however, executed their orders gallantly.” The two armies recoiled from their midnight embrace, and, during the darkness, hostilities were suspended tacitly on both sides.

From prisoners taken, it was found that Cornwallis was within six hundred yards, with a force of 3,000 regulars. Gates was confounded. He now called his officers to council, in the rear of the line. 66 What is to be done, gentlemen ?" was his inquiry. Brigadier Stevens was the first to reply, saying, “ Is it not too late now to do anything but fight ?" No other advice was given. The opinion of Baron DeKalb may be gathered from his demand of the adjutant-general, when summoned to council, “Well, sir, has the general given you orders to retreat the army ?” In council, however, he said nothing in opposition to the suggestion of Stevens. Perhaps, he, too, saw that it was too late for retreat. The officers then separated, each for his particular command. Col. Porterfield had been already fatally wounded, in the nocturnal skirmish.

The Americans were formed in the following order :The Maryland division, including the Delawares, on the

right; the North-Carolina militia in the centre; the Virginia militia on the left. The nature of the ground was such as to enable the first Maryland brigade to form a second line, about two hundred yards in the rear of the first. The artillery was placed in the centre of the front line. The North Carolina light infantry, under Major Armstrong, was ordered to cover a small interval between the left wing and the low grounds in that quarter. The two armies were kept watchful and anxious, by occasional skirmishes during the night, and, with the dawn, (16th August,) the British were discovered in front, advancing in column. The artillery opened upon them, and Gates was apprised by his adjutant-general of the beginning of the game. Here, it is proper to remark, that there is no sort of evidence to support the statement given by Weems, that Gates cast some reflections upon the valour of DeKalb. This, from all authorities, seems to be pure fiction. We have no doubt that there was such a degree of reserve existing between Gates and DeKalb, from well known causes, that they had few words together, and these must have been courteous and civil to the last degree. These reserves were no doubt of very mischievous influence. They affected, more or less, the whole of the officers, and impaired the confidence of the troops in their superiors. In all probability, they served, quite as much as any other influence, to sacrifice the army. But, to return.

When the British were seen displaying, Gates gave a single order, and it was the only one. We must let Colonel Williams tell the rest of the story—to the fall of DeKalb, at least, with whom, indeed, our interest in the subject


“The general seemed disposed to wait events-he gave no order. The deputy adjutant-general observed, that if the enemy, in the act of displaying, were briskly attacked by General Stevens's brigade, which was already in line of battle, the effect might be fortunate, and first impressions were important. "Sir,' said the general, 'that's right-let it be done. This was the last order that the deputy adjutant-general received. He hastened to General Stevens, who instantly advanced with bis brigade, apparently in fine spirits. The right wing of the enemy was soon discovere, in line—it was too late to attack them displaying; nevertheless, the business of the day could no longer be deferred. The deputy adjutant-general requested General Stevens to let him have forty or fifty privates,

« ElőzőTovább »