After the summer of 1778 little of military importance occurred at the North. July and November of that year were marked by bloody Indian massacres at Wyoming, Pa., and Cherry Valley, N. Y., the worst in all that border warfare which was incessant from the beginning to the end of the Revolution. In August an unsuccessful attempt to regain Newport was made by General Sullivan, co-operating with a French fleet under D'Estaing.
In the spring and summer of 1779, Clinton, who lay at New York with a considerable army, closely watched by Washington, sent out to Connecticut and the coasts of Virginia a number of plundering expeditions which did much damage. "Mad Anthony Wayne" led a brilliant attack against Stony Point on the Hudson, captured the British garrison, and destroyed the fortifications. This year was also marked by a great naval victory. Paul Jones lashed his vessel, the Bonhomme Richard, to the British Serapis, off the northeast coast of England, and after a desperate fight of three hours forced the Serapis to surrender.
But the brunt of the war now fell on the South, where the British, unsuccessful in the Northern and Middle States, hoped for an easy conquest. The capture of Savannah in December, 1778, and of Augusta the next month, laid Georgia prostrate. The royal government was re-instated by Prevost, the British general. Our General Lincoln, who had been placed in command of the Southern army, assisted by D'Estaing with his fleet, besieged Savannah, but on October 9, 1779, was repulsed with heavy loss.
In the spring of 1780 Clinton arrived from New York with a fleet and troops. Charleston, S. C, was besieged by land and sea. Lincoln was compelled to surrender with his whole army. Beaufort, Ninety-Six, and Camden capitulated in rapid succession. Marauding expeditions overran the State. President Andrew Jackson carried to his grave scars of hurts, one on his head, another on his hand, given him by Tarleton's men when he was a boy at Waxhaw. The patriots lay helpless. The loyalists organized as militia and joined the British. Clinton, elated by success, hoped to force the entire population into allegiance to the king. The estates of patriots were sequestered. Any Carolinian found in arms against the king might be, and multitudes were, hung for treason. Clinton even issued a proclamation requiring all inhabitants to take active part on the royalist side. Sumter, Marion, and other leaders, gathering around them little companies of bold men, carried on a guerilla warfare which proved very annoying to the British. They would sally forth from their hiding-places in the swamps, surprise some British outpost or cut off some detachment, and retreat with their booty and prisoners before pursuit could be made.
[Illustration: Medal with portrait.] John Paul Jones's Medal. "Joanni Pavlo Jones" "Classis Praefecto." "Comitia American"
[Illustration: Medal with ship.] John Paul Jones's Medal (Reverse). "HOSTIVM NAVIBVS" "CAPTIS AVTFVCATTS" "AD ORAM SCOTIAE XXIII SEPT." "MDCCLXXVIII." "Dupre E"
But the British army in South Carolina and Georgia was 7,000 strong. Help must come from without. And help was coming. Washington detached from his scanty army 2,000 Maryland troops and the Delaware regiment--all veterans--and sent them south under De Kalb, a brave officer of German blood, who had seen long service in France. Virginia, though herself exposed, nobly contributed arms and men. Gates, the laurels of Saratoga still fresh upon his brow, was, against Washington's judgment, appointed by Congress to succeed Lincoln.
Cornwallis, whom the return of Clinton to New York had left in command, lay at Camden, S. C. Gates, as if he had but to look the Briton in the eye to beat him, pompously assumed the offensive. On August 15th he made a night march to secure a more favorable position near Camden. Cornwallis happened to have chosen the same night for an attack upon Gates. The two armies unexpectedly met in the woods, nine miles from Camden, early in the morning of the 16th. Gates's force, increased by North Carolina militia, was between 3,000 and 4,000. Cornwallis had about 2,000. The American position was strong, a swamp protecting both flanks, but at the first bayonet charge of the British veterans the raw militia threw away their guns and "ran like a torrent." The Maryland and Delaware Continentals stood their ground bravely, but were finally obliged to retreat. De Kalb fell, with eleven wounds.
[Illustration: Portrait, holding a spear.] General Sullivan.
This heroic foreigner had been sent hither by Choiseul before the Revolution to report to the French minister on American affairs, and at the outbreak of war had at great cost cast in his lot with our fathers. Sent south to aid Lincoln, he arrived only in time to be utilized by Gates. De Kalb was the hero of Camden. Wounded and his horse shot from under him, on foot he led his stanch division in a charge which drove Rawdon's men and took fifty prisoners. Believing his side victorious he would not yield, though literally ridden down by Cornwallis' dragoons, till his wounds exhausted him. Two-fifths of his noble division fell with him.
The whole army was pursued for miles and completely scattered. Arms, knapsacks, broken wagons, dead horses strewed the line of retreat. The Americans lost 900 killed and as many more prisoners. The British loss was less than 500. Gates, who had been literally borne off the field by the panic-stricken militia, rode in all haste two hundred miles north to Hillsborough, N. C, where he tried to organize a new army.
[Illustration: Portrait.] General Lincoln.
The gloom created at the North by this defeat was deepened by the startling news that Benedict Arnold, the hero of Saratoga, had turned traitor. Smarting under a reprimand from Washington for misconduct, Arnold agreed with Clinton to surrender West Point. The plot was discovered by the capture of Clinton's agent, Major Andre, who was hung as a spy. Arnold escaped to the British lines.
There was now no organized American force in the Carolinas, and Cornwallis began a triumphant march northward. The brave mountaineers of North Carolina and Virginia rose in arms. October 7th, 1,000 riflemen fell upon a detachment of 1,100 British, strongly posted on King's Mountain, N. C, and after a sharp struggle killed and wounded about 400, and took the rest prisoners. In this battle fell one of the Tory ancestors of the since distinguished American De Peyster family.
The King's Mountain victory filled the patriots with new hope and zeal, and kept the loyalists from rising to support the British. Cornwallis marched south again.
[Illustration: Several men camped in a swamp.] General Marion in Camp.
Gates was now removed and General Nathaniel Greene placed in charge of the Southern department. Greene was one of the most splendid figures in the Revolution. Son of a Rhode Island Quaker, bred a blacksmith, ill-educated save-by private study, which in mathematics, history, and law he had carried far, he was in 1770 elected to the legislature of his colony. Zeal to fight England for colonial liberty lost him his place in the Friends' Society. Heading Rhode Island's contingent to join Washington before Boston at the first shock of Revolutionary arms, he was soon made brigadier, the initial step in his rapid promotion. Showing himself an accomplished fighter at Trenton, Princeton, Germantown, Monmouth, and the battle of Rhode Island, and a first-rate organizer as quartermaster-general of the army, he had long been Washington's right-hand man; and his superior now sent him south with high hopes and ringing words of recommendation to the army and people there.
[Illustration: Portrait.] Marquis de Lafayette.
Greene's plan of campaign was the reverse of Gates's. He meant to harass and hinder the enemy at every step, avoiding pitched battles. January 17, 1781, a portion of his army, about 1,000 strong, under the famous General Daniel Morgan, of Virginia, another hero of Saratoga, was attacked at Cowpens, S. C., by an equal number of British under the dashing Tarleton. The British, riddled by a terrible cross-fire from Morgan's unerring riflemen, followed up by a bayonet charge, fled, and were for twenty-four miles pursued by cavalry. The American loss was trifling. Tarleton lost 300 in killed and wounded, and 500 prisoners, besides 100 horses, 35 wagons, and 800 muskets.
[Illustration: Portrait.] Benedict Arnold.
Cornwallis began a second march northward. Greene's force was too weak to risk a battle. His soldiers were poorly clad, and most of them were without tents or shoes. He therefore skillfully retreated across North Carolina, chased by Cornwallis. Twice the rivers, rising suddenly after Greene had crossed, checked his pursuers. But on March 15th, re-enforced to about 4,000, the Quaker general offered battle to Cornwallis at Guilford Court-House, N. C. He drew up his forces on a wooded hill in three lines one behind the other. The first line, consisting of raw North Carolina militia, fled before the British bayonet charge, hardly firing a shot. The Virginia brigade constituting the second line made a brave resistance, but was soon driven back. On swept the British columns, flushed with victory, against the third line. Here Greek met Greek. The Continentals stood their ground like the veterans they were. After a long and bloody fight the British were driven back. The fugitives, however, presently rallied under cover of theartillery, when Greene, fearing to risk more, withdrew from the field. The British lost 500; the Americans, 400, besides a large part of the militia, who dispersed to their homes. Cornwallis, with his "victorious but ruined army," retreated to the southern part of the State. The last of April he forsook Carolina, and marched into Virginia with 1,400 men.
[Illustration: Several men in a rowboat, one holding a white flag.] Arnold's Escape.
Greene, his force reduced to 1,800, carried the war into South Carolina. Defeated at Hobkirk's Hill, near Camden, and compelled by the approach of General Rawdon to raise the siege of Ninety-Six, he retreated north. Meantime Marion and Lee had brought about the evacuation of Camden and Augusta. Rawdon soon evacuated Ninety-Six, and moved toward the coast, followed by Greene.
A ceaseless guerilla warfare was kept up, attended with many barbarities. Slave-stealing was a favorite pursuit on both sides. It is noteworthy that the followers of Sumter, fighting in the cause of freedom, were paid largely in slaves. The whole campaign was marked by severities unknown at the North. The British shot as deserters all who, having once accepted royal protection, were taken in arms against the king. In a few cases Americans dealt similarly with Americans fighting for the British, but in general their procedure was infinitely the more humane.
[Illustration: Portrait.] General Nathaniel Greene.
The battle of Eutaw Springs practically ended the war in the South. The British were victorious, but all the advantages of the battle accrued to the Americans. The British loss was nearly 1,000; the American, 600. In ten months Greene had driven the British from all Georgia and the Carolinas except Wilmington, Charleston, and Savannah.
Destiny decreed that Washington should strike the last blow for his country's freedom on the soil of his own State. Cornwallis found himself in Virginia, the last of May, at the head of 7,000 troops. He ravaged the State, destroying $10,000,000 worth of property. Lafayette, pitted against him with 3,000 men, could do little. In August Cornwallis withdrew into Yorktown, and began fortifications. Lafayette's quick eye saw that the British general had caged himself. Posting his army so as to prevent Cornwallis's escape, he advised Washington to hasten with his army to Virginia. Meanwhile a French fleet blocked up the mouth of Chesapeake Bay and of James River and York River, cutting off Cornwallis's escape by water. The last of September Washington's army, accompanied by the French troops under Rochambeau, appeared before Yorktown. Clinton, deceived by Washington into the belief that New York was to be attacked, was still holding that city with 18,000 men. The American army, 16,000 strong--7,000 French--began a regular siege. Cornwallis was doomed.
[Illustration: Cornwallis in center on horse, with hat off. Washington and aides on right also on horses, with hats on.] Surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown.
[Illustration: Portrait.] General Daniel Morgan.
Two advanced redoubts of the British works were soon carried by a brilliant assault in which the French and the American troops won equal honors. On the 19th Cornwallis surrendered. The captive army, numbering 7,247, marched with cased colors between two long lines of American and French troops, and laid down their arms.
The news of Cornwallis's surrender flew like wild-fire over the country. Everywhere the victory was hailed as virtually ending the war. Bonfires and booming cannon told of the joy of the people. Congress assembled, and marching to church in a body, not as a mere form, we may well believe, gave thanks to the God of battles, so propitious at last.