Ridpath's History of the United States
Volume III


Chapter VIII
The End

For the Americans the year 1781 opened gloomily. The condition of the army was desperate--no food, no pay, no clothing. Even the influence of Washington was not sufficient to quiet the growing discontent of the soldiery. On the first day of January the whole Pennsylvania lkine, numbering nearly two thousand, mutinied, left their camp at Morristown, and marched toward Philadelphia. General Wayne, after trying in vain to prevent the insurrection, went with his men, still hoping to control them. At Princeton they were met by two emissaries from Sir Henry Clinton, and were tempted with offers of money, clothing, and release from military service if they would desert the American standard. The mutinous patriots made answer by seizing the British agents and delivering them to General Wayne to be hanged as spies. For this deed the commissioners of Congress, who now arrived, offered the insurgents a large reward, but the reward was indignantly refused. Washington, knowing how shamefully the army had been neglected by Congress, was not unwilling that the mutiny should take its own course. The Congressional agents were therefore left to adjust the difficulty with the rebellious troops. But the breach was easily healed; a few liberal concessions on the part of the government sufficed to quiet the mutiny.

About the middle of the same month the New Jersey brigade, stationed at Pompton, revolted. This movement Washington quelled by force. General Robert Howe marched to the camp with five hundred regulars and compelled twelve of the principal mutineers to execute the two leaders of the revolt. From that day order was completely restored. These insurrections had a good rather than a bad effect; Congress was thoroughly alarmed, and immediate provisions were made for the better support of the army. An agent was sent to France to obtain a further loan of money; Robert Morris was appointed secretary of finance; and the Bank of North America was organized.

In the North military movements were begun by Arnold. On arriving at New York the traitor had received the promised commission, and was now a brigadier-general in the British army. In the preceding November, Washington and Major Henry Lee formed a plan to capture him. Sergeant John Champe undertook the daring enterprise, deserted to the enemy, entered New York, joined Arnold's company, and with two assistants concerted measures to abduct him from the city and convey him to the American camp. But Arnold suddenly moved his quarters, and the plan was defeated. A month afterward he was given command of a fleet and a land force of sixteen hundred men, and on the 16th of December left New York to make a descent on the coasts of Virginia.

Early in January the traitor entered James River and began war on his countrymen. His proceedings were marked with much ferocity, but not with the daring which characterized his former exploits. Again Washington planned his capture. A month afterward he was given command of a fleet and a land force of sixteen hundred men, and on the 16th of December left New York to make a descent on the coasts of Virginia.

Early in January the traitor entered James River and began war upon his countrymen. His proceedings were marked with much ferocity, but not with the daring which characterized his former exploits. Again Washington planned his capture. The French fleet, who was sent in the direction of Portsmouth with a detachment of twelve hundred men. But Admiral Arbuthnot, being apprised of the movement, sailed from New York and drove the French squadron back to Rhode Island. La Fayette, deprived of the expected aid, was forced to abandoned the undertaking, and Arnold again escaped.

About the middle of April, General Phillips arrived at Portsmouth with a force of two thousand British regulars. Joining his troops with those of Arnold, he assumed command of the whole, and again the fertile districts of Lower Virginia were ravaged with fire and sword. Early in May, Phillips died, and for seven days Arnold held the supreme command of the British forces in Virginia. That was the height of his treasonable glory. On the 20th of the month Lord Cornwallis arrived at Petersburg and ordered him to begone. Returning to New York, he received from Clinton a second detachment, entered the Sound, landed at New London, in his native State, and captured the town. Fort Griswold, which was defended by Colonel Ledyard with a hundred and fifty militiamen, was carried by storm. When Ledyard surrendered, the British officer who received his sword stabbed him to death; it was the signal for a massacre of the garrison, seventy-three of whom were murdered in cold blood; of the remainder, thirty were wounded and the rest made prisoners. With this bloody and ignominious deed the name of Arnold disappears from American history.

Meanwhile, some of the most stirring events of the war had occurred at the South. At the close of the preceding year General Greene had taken command of the American army--which was only the shadow of an army--at Charlotte, North Carolina. Cornwallis had fallen back in the direction of Camden. Greene with great energy reorganized his forces and divided them into an eastern and a western division; the command of the latter was given to General Morgan. In the first days of January this gallant officer was sent into the Spartanburg district of South Carolina to repress the Tories and encourage the patriot militia. His success was such as to exasperate Cornwallis, who immediately dispatched Colonel Tarleton with his famous cavalry legion to destroy Morgan's forces or drive them out of the State. The Americans, apprised of Tarleton's approach, took a favorable position at the Cowpens, where, on the 17th of January, they were attacked by the British, eleven hundred strong. Tarleton, confident of success, made the onset with impetuosity; but Morgan's men sustained the shock with firmness, and, when the enemy's reserves were called into action, either held their ground or retired in good order. At the crisis of the battle the American cavalry, commanded by Colonel William Washington, made a furious charge and scattered the British dragoons like chaff before them. The rout was complete--the victory decisive. Washington and Tarleton had a personal encounter on the field, and the latter fled with a sword-gash in his hand. His corps was annihilated; then British officers and ninety privates were killed, and five hundred and twenty-three were captured. Two pieces of artillery, eight hundred muskets, and two flags were among the trophies of the battle.

When Cornwallis, who was encamped with his army thirty miles down the Catawba, heard of the disaster to his arms, he made a rapid march up the river to reach the fords in Morgan's rear. But Greene, who had also heard the news, hastened to the camp of Morgan, took command in person, and began a hasty retreat. At the same time he sent word to General Huger, who commanded the eastern division, to fall back toward Charlotte, where it was proposed to form a junction of the two wings of the army. On the 28th of January, Morgan's division reached the Catawba and crossed to the northern bank, with prisoners, spoils, and baggage. Within two hours the British van arrived at the ford; but it was already sunset, and Cornwallis concluded to wait for the morning; then he would cross and win an easy victory. During the night the clouds opened and poured down torrents; in the morning the river was swollen to a flood. It was many days before the British forced their way across, dispersing the militia on the opposite bank. And now began a second race of the two hostile armies, first to the valley of the Yadkin and later into Virginia, where Greene's army was re-enforced by several hundred militia. At length Greene took a strong position at Guilford Courthouse, in North Carolina, and awaited his antagonist. Cornwallis, accepting the challenge, at once moved forward to the attack. On the 15th of March the two armies met on Green's chosen ground, and a severe but indecisive battle was fought. The forces of Greene were superior in numbers, and those of Cornwallis in discipline. If the American militia had stood firm, the result would not have been doubtful; but the raw recruits behaved badly, broke line, and fled. Confusion ensued; the American regulars fought hard, but were eventually driven from the field and forced to retreat for several miles. In killed and wounded the British loss wa greatest; but large bodies of the militia returned to their homes, reducing Greene's army to less than three thousand. Nevertheless, to the British the result was equivilent to a defeat.

Cornwallis now boasted, made big proclamations, and then retreated. On the 7th of April he reached the sea-coast at Wilmington, and immediately thereafter proceeded to Virginia. How he arrived at Petersburg, superseded Arnold, and sent him out of the State has already been narrated. The British forces in the Carolinas remained under the command of Lord Rawdon, who was posted with a strong division at Camden. With him General Greene, after the departure of Cornwallis, was left to contend. The American army was accordingly advanced into South Carolina. A detachment was sent against Fort Watson, on the east bank of the Santee, and the place was obliged to surrender. Greene marched with the main body to Hobkirk's Hill, a short distance north of Camden, posted his men in a strong position, and awaited the movements of Rawdon. What that officer would do was not long a question of doubt. On the 25th of April he moved from Camden with his entire force and attacked the American camp. For once General Greene came near being surprised; but his men were swiftly formed for battle; Rawdon's column was badly arranged; and for a while it seemed that the entire British force would be slain or captured. Just at the critical moment, however, some valuable American officers who commanded in the center were killed; their regiments, becoming confused, fell back; Fawdon saw his advantage, pressed forward, broke the center, captured the hill, and won the day. The Americans retired from the field, but saved their artillery and bore away the wounded. Again the genius of Greene made defeat seem little less than victory.

On the 10th of May, Lord Rawdon evacuated Camden and retired to Eutaw Springs, sixty-five miles above the mouth of the Santee. The British posts at Granby, Orangeburg, Fort Mott, and Augusta fell successively into the hands of the patriots. By the 5th of June only Eutaw Springs, Charleston, and Ninety-Six remained in possession of the enemy. After considerable sparring the British fell back from Ninety-Six to Orangeburg and the Americans retired to the highlands in the Sumter district and in the healthful air of the hill country passed the summer months.

Sumter, Lee, and Marion were constantly abroad, traversing the country in all directions, cutting off supplies from the enemy, breaking his lines of communication, and smiting the Tories right and left. Lord Rawdon now resigned the command of the British forces to Colonel Stuart and went to Charleston. While there he became a principal actor in one of the most shameful scenes of the Revolution. Colonel Isaac hayne, an eminent patriot who had formerly taken an oath of allegiance to the king, was caught in command of a troop of American cavalry. He was at once taken to Charleston, arraigned before Colonel Balfour, the commandant, hurried through the mackery of a trial, and condemned to death. Rawdon gave his sanction, and on the 31st of July, Colonel Hayne was hanged. Just men in Europe joined with the patriots of America in denouncing the act as worthy of barbarism.

On the 22nd of August, General Greene left the heights of the Santee and marched toward Orangeburg. The British decamped at his approach and took post at Eutaw Springs, forty miles below. The Americans pressed after them and overtook them on the 8th of September. One of the fiercest battles of the war ensued; and General Greene was denied a decisive victory only by the bad conduct of some of his men, who, before the field was fairly won, abandoned themselves to eating and drinking in the enemy's camp. Stuart rallied his troops, returned to the charge, and regained his position. Greene, after losing five hundred and fifty-five men, gave over the struggle. The British lost in killed and wounded nearly seven hundred, and more than five hundred prisoners. On the day after the battle Stuart hastily retreated to Monk's Corner; Greene followed with his army, and after two months of maneuvering and desultory warfare the British were driven into Charleston. In the meantime, General St. Clair had cleared North Carolina by forcing the enemy to evacuate Wilmington. In the whole country south of Virginia only Charleston and Savannah remained under dominion of the king's army; the latter city was evacuated by the British on the 11th of July, and the former on the 14th of December, 1782. Such was the close of the Revolution in the Carolinas and Georgia.

But the final scene was to be enacted in Virginia. There, in the last days of April, 1781, Cornwallis took command of the British army and began to ravage the country on both banks of the James. In the course of the following two months property, public and private, was destroyed to the value of fifteen million dollars. La Fayette, to whom the defense of the State had been intrusted, was unable to meet Cornwallis in the field, but watched his movements with sleepless vigilance. While the British were in the vicinity of Richmond a detachment under Tarleton proceeded as far west at Charlottesville, where the Virginia legislature was in session. The town was taken, the country devastated, and seven members of the assembly made prisoners. Governor Jefferson escaped only by riding into the mountains.

When there was little left to destroy, Cornwallis marched down the north bank of the James to Green Springs, eight miles above the site of Jamestown. From here, after a skirmish with General Wayne, he conveyed his army to Yorktown, on the southern bank of York River, a few miles above the mouth. La Fayette quickly advanced into the peninsula and took post but eight miles distant from the British. From this position he sent urgent dispatches to Washington, beseeching him to come to Virginia and aid in striking the enemy a fatal blow. A powerful French armament, commanded by Count de Grasse, was hourly expected in the Chesapeake, and La Fayette saw at a glance that if a fleet could be anchored in the mouth of York River, cutting off retreat, the doom of Cornwallis would be sealed. During the months of July and August, Washingtn, from his camp on the Hudson, looked wistfully to the South. But all the while Clinton was kept in feverish alarm by false dispatches, written for the purpose of falling into his hands. These intercepted messages indicated that the Americans and French would immediately begin the siege of New York; and for that Clinton made ready. When, in the last days of August, he was informed that Washington had broken up his camp and was alaredy marching with his whole army toward Virginia, the British general would not believe it, but went on preparing for a siege. Washington pressed rapidly forward, paused two days at Mount Vernon, where he had not been for six years, and met La Fayette at Williamsburg. Meanwhile, on the 30th of august, the French fleet, numbering twenty-eight ships of the line, with nearly four thousand troops on board, had reached the Chesapeake and safely anchored in the mouth of York River. Cornwallis, with the British army, was blockaded both by sea and land.

To add still further to the strength of the allies, Count de Barras, who commanded the French flotilla at Newport, sailed into the Chesapeake with eight ships of the line and ten transports, bearing cannon for the siege. On the 5th of September the English admiral Graves appeared in the bay, and a naval battle ensued, in which the British ships were so roughly handled that they returned to New York. On the 28th of September the allied armies, superior in numbers and confident of success, encamped around Yorktown. The story of the siege is brief. Tarleton, who occupied Gloucester Point, on the other side of the river, made one spirited sally, but was driven back with severe loss. On the night of the 6th of October the trenches were opened at the distance of six hundred yards from the British works. The cannonade was constant and effective. On the 11th of the month the allies drew their second parallel within three hundred yards of Cornwallis's redoubts. On the night of the 14th the enemy's outer works were carried by storm. At daydawn of the 16th the British made a sortie, only to be hurled back into their intrenchments. On the next day Cornwallis proposed a surrender; on the 18th terms of capitulation were drawn up and signed; and at two o'clock in the afternoon of the 19th Major-General O'Hara--for Cornwallis, feigning sickness, remained in his tent--led the whole British army from the trenches into an open field, where, in the presence of the allied ranks of France and America, seven thousand two hundrd and forty-seven English and Hessian soldiers laid down their arms, delivered their standards, and became prisoners of war. Eight hundred and forty sailors were also surrendered. Seventy-five brass ans thirty-one iron guns were taken, together with all the accouterments of the army.

By a swift courier the news was borne to Congress. On the evening of the 23d the messenger fode into Philadelphia. When the sentinels of the city called the hour of ten that night, they added, "and Cornwallis is taken." On the morrow, Congress assembled, and before that august body the dispatch of Washington was read. The members, exulting and weeping for gladness, went in concourse with the citizens to the Lutheran church and turned the afternoon into a thanksgiving. The note of rejoicing sounded through the length and breadth of the land; for it was seen that the dominion of the Briton in America was forever broken.

After the surrender the conquered army was marched under guard to the barracks of Lancaster, Washington, with the victorious Americans and French, returned to the camps of New Jersey and the Hudson. On the Continent of Europe the news was received with every demonstration of gladness. In England the king and his ministers heard the tidings with mortification and rage; but many of the English people were either secretly pleased or openly rejoiced. During the fall and winter the ministerial majority in Parliament fell off rapidly; and on the 20th of March, 1782, Lord North and his friends, unable longer to conduct the government, resigned their offices. A new ministry was immediately formed, favorable to America, favorable to freedom, favorable to peace. In the beginning of May the command of the British forces in the United States was transferred from Clinton to Sir Guy Carleton, a man friendly to American interests. The hostile demonstrations of the enemy, now confined to New York and Charleston, ceased; and Washington made no efforts to dislodge the foe, for the war had really ended.

In the summer of 1782, Richard Oswald was sent by Parliament to Paris. The object of his mission was to confer with Franklin and Jay, the ambassadors of the United States, in regard to the terms of peace. Before the discussions were ended, John Adams, arriving from Amsterdam, and henry Laurens from London, entered into the negotiations. On the 30th of November preliminary articles of peace were agreed to and signed on the part of Great Britain by Oswald, and on behalf of the United States by Franklin, Adams, Jay, and Laurens. In the following April the terms were ratified by Congress; but it was not until the 3d of September, 1783, that a final treaty was effected between all the nations that had been at war. On that day the ambassadors of Holland, Spain, England, France, and the United States, in a solemn conference at Paris, agreed to and signed the articles of a permanent peace.

The terms of the Treaty of 1783 were briefly these: A full and complete recognition of the independence of the United States; the recession by Great Britain of Florida to Spain; the surrender of all the remaining territory east of the Mississippi and south of the Great Lakes to the United States; the free navigation of the Mississippi and the lakes by American vessels; the concession of mutual rights in the Newfoundland fisheries; and the retention by Great Britain of Canada and Nova Scotia, with the exclusive control of the St. Lawrence.

Early in August, Sir Guy Carleton received instructions to evacuate New York City. Three months were spent in making arrangements for this important event. Fianlly, on the 25th of November, everything was in readiness; the British army was embarked on board the fleet; the sails were spread; the ships stood out to sea; dwindled to white specks on the horizon; disappeared. The Briton was gone. After the struggles and sacrifices of an eight years' war the patriots had achieved the independence of their country. The United States of America took an equal station among the nations of the earth.

Nine days after Carleton's departure there was a most affecting scene in the city. Washington assembled his officers and bade them a final adieu. When they were met, the chieftain spoke a few affectionate words to his comrades, who came forward in turn and with tears and sobs which the veterans no longer cared to conceal bade him farewell. Washington then walked to Whitehall, followed by a vast concourse of citizens and soldiers, and thence departed to Annapolis, where Congress was in session. On his way he paused at Philadelphia and made to the proper officers a report of his expenses during the war. The account was in his own handwriting, and covered a total expenditure of seventy-four thousand four hundred and eighty-five dollars--all correct to a cent. The route of the chief from Paulus's Hook to Annapolis was a continuous triiumph. The people by hundreds and thousands flocked to the villages and roadsides to see him pass; gray-headed statesmen to speak words of praise; young men to shout with enthusiasm; maidens to strew his way with flowers.

On the 23d of December, Washington was introduced to Congress. To that body of patriotic sages he delivered an address full of feeling, wisdon, and modesty. Then with that dignity which always marked his conduct he surrendered his commission as commander-in-chief of the American army. General Mifflin, the president of Congress, responded in an eloquent manner, and then the hero reired to his home at Mount Vernon. The man whom, the year before, some disaffected soldiers were going to make king of America, now, by his own act, became a citizen of the Republic.


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