Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

CHAPTER IX.

Events of 1779.—General Lincoln is sent to take command in the

southern department.-General Prevost attempts to gain Port Royal, and is repulsed.Colonel Boyd at the head of the tories defeated by Colonel Pickens.--Colonel Campbell abandons Jugusta.--General Ashe defeated at Briar Creek.---Brare stand of General Elbert.--Lincoln is reinforced and crosses the Savannah.-General Prevost attacks Moultrie, who retreats to Charleston.--Siege of Charleston.--Prevost retires without attacking-Lincoln arrives at Dorchester--attacks the British van at Stonomis compelled to retreat.-General Prevost establishes a post at Beaufort, and retires to Savannah.-Sir Henry Clinton sends an expedition into the Chesapeake.They enter Elizabeth River, and destroy the American shipping and stores, and retiré to New-York.

Some time before the expedition for the south, un. der Colonel Campbell, sailed from New York, Congress had appointed Major General Lincoln to the command of the southern department. This had been done at the request of the southern representatives who, it seems, had formed a plan for the conqueșt of the Floridas, and had not sufficient confidence in the talents of General Howe to entrust the enterprise to him. Howe had distinguished bimself at a very early period of the revolution, by the noble stand which he had made against the forces of Lord Dunmore, at the head of the Dismal Swamp in Virginia. This raised a party in his favour in the Virginia House of Burgesses, at the expense of his superiour officer, Colonel Patrick Henry, who was then commander in chief of the united forces of Virginia and the Carolinas, which led to the resignation

of the latter, and consequent promotion of the former. He was a brave and enterprising partizan officer, but had neither suflicient talents nor experience to command an army to advantage.

Major General Lincoln, though his military expé. rience extended no further back than the commencement of the revolution, had seen a great deal of hard service, had been successful in several plans that indicated military talents, and was the only general officer on the field of battle on the 19th of September, at Saratoga. Lincoln arrived at Charleston on the 4th of December, where, instead of meeting, as he expected, with an army sufficient to invade the enemy's country, scarcely a man had arrived; nor was it until after he had heard of the landing of Colonel Campbell and the defeat of Howe, that he was enabled to move with a force adequate even to defence. On the 7th of January he established himself at Perrysburg, on the north side of the Savannah, and about 15 miles from the British commander, General Prevost. The remnant of Howe's force, which he met with here, united to his own, made his number about 1400; but he had neither field pieces, arms, tents nor ammunition.

The forces of General Prevost were fortunately scattered over a long line of posts, extending from Savannah to Augusta, with a view to preserve possession of the conquered Province, and there seemed to be no disposition to disturb the arrangements of the American general. By the end of January the arrival of the North Carolina militia under General Ashe increased General Lincoln's force to about 3000 men, and with this number he began to think of offensive operations. General Prevost in the mean time

attempted to make an establishment in South Caroli. na by the possession of Port-royal Island. For this purpose he detached Colonel Gardner with 200 men, , who effected a landing; but being met by General Moultrie, (the brave defender of the fort of his name,) at the head of a like number, he was driven off with considerable loss,

In pursuance of his determination to act offensively, General Lincoln, early in February, sent General Ashe with about 1500 men to take post opposite Augusta, where Colonel Campbell had fixed himself, as the most convenient rendezvous for the tories and loyalists of the State. Here he had collected a force composed of this denomination of persons to the amount of 2000; the greater part of them were persons of infamous character, who lived chiefly by robbery and plunder. A party of them, with Colonel Boyd at their head, having crossed the Savannah, Colonel Pickens, with about 300 militia collected from the district of 96, followed them, and on the 14th had a desperate engagement with them of three quarters of an hour. Having lost their leader, and about 40 killed, they took to fight in every direction ; a few of them were enabled to reach the British posts in safety, but the greater part, being citizens of South Carolina, were apprehended and brought to trial for treason, and five of the ringleaders executed.

This check, together with the threatening attitude which General Lincoln had assumed, induced Colonel Campbell to abandon his position at Augusta on the very night of General Ashe's arrival. In order to prevent if possible his conjunction with Prevost, General Lincoln advised Ashe to cross the river, follow the enemy, and take post at Briar creek. In ebe

dience to this advice, General Ashe crossed with his troops, and on the 28th they were encamped in two divisions under Generals Brian and Elbert, near to the lower bridge on Briar creek. The bridge had been destroyed by Campbell on his march, but even for three days after the arrival of the Americans, no attempt had been made to repair it. The British commander no sooner heard of this movement of Ashe, than he determined upon measures to dislodge him; and in order the better to conceal his real design, and divert the attention of General Lincoln, he made a a feint of crossing the river between Ebenezer and; Savannah, while Lieutenant Colonel Prevost, who was posted at Hudson's ferry, 13 miles below Briar creek, having made a division of his forces and sent one as if to attack the front of Ashe, made a circuitous march of fifty miles with the other, amounting to about 900 men, with two pieces of artillery, and came in upon Ashe's rear. General Ashe proved wholly incompetent to the charge entrusted to him ; he was completely surprised in the weakest part of his camp, and when the enemy appeared on the 3d of March, instead of turning out at the head of his wbole force to meet them, he ordered Elbert to sustain the shock with his continentals, amounting to no more than 100 rank and file. This brave officer did not hesitate even with this small number to meet the British light infantry, with whom he engaged for fifteen minutes, while Ashe and his militia stood idly looking on in the rear, without attempting to move to his assistance, until Elbert's men were compelled to give way, when the whole body of them fled in dismay. Thus deserted, Elbert used every exertion to bring his little band a second time to the charge, but by this time they were

completely surrounded, and further resistance was vain. He and the few who survived were taken prisoners.

A number of the militia who fled were killed and others overtaken, to the number of more than 300 in the whole. Many of them were drowned in attempting to cross the river, and many others return ed to their homes so panick struck, that they never ventured again into the field. Colonel Prevost deservedly gained great credit for the skill and dexterity with which he had managed this enterprise; but he has to thank the negligence and incompetence of the American General for his success. Had Elbert been in the place of Ashe, the result of the day might have been widely different.

Thus were the British secured for the present in their possession of Georgia. The loss of seven pieces of cannon, nearly all their arms and ammunition, and the flight of so large a portion of Ashe's troops, had so much reduced the force and means of General Lincoln, that he was unable for some time to undertake any hostile movement. The election of John Rutledge Esq. about this time to the government of South Carolina, gave an excitement to the republican interest, which soon resulted in important advantages. He was a gentleman of elegant manners, of extensive acquirements, an accomplished orator, and above all he had taken an 'active part in the earliest measures of independence. He was clothed by the Legislature with extensive powers, and he soon began to exert them for the good of the cause. The militia flocked from allquarters to the American standard, and by the 19th April General Lincoln found himself at the head of 5000 men.

With these he determined once more to cross the Savannah, and take such a position as

« ForrigeFortsett »